Q&A with Dr. Keamy: The Effects of Distance Learning on Your Child’s Eyes

LT: Hi, Dr. Keamy. This fall, many students will be returning to a virtual classroom. As a parent of grown children, I remember the battle of “screens” all too well. Adding online learning to recreational digital use cannot be healthy for their eyes. What’s your take on this?

JK: True, digital learning does compound the effects of screen use by our youth. However, there are ways to limit developing tired, dry eyes from concentrating on laptops and tablets for extended periods.

LT: What is it about a computer screen that stresses our eyes?

JK: It’s the blue light, Laura. The blue light exposure emanated from a screen is far less than that from the sun. Still, its effect is worse because of the screen’s proximity and the extended length of time we spend looking at it. In relevance to distance learning, the concern is that children’s eyes absorb more blue light from digital screens than do adults.

LT: What tips do you have for the parents of students this fall?

JK: The following suggestions will help avoid, or reduce in severity, the eye problems associated with extended screen time:

  • Students should view their laptop or tablet from 18-24 inches away, about arm’s length.
  • Ideally, they should have their device positioned at eye level and directly in front of the body.
  • If the light source is behind the student and not behind the screen, glare is reduced.
  • Adjust the screen’s brightness and contrast for comfortable viewing.
  • Don’t use a device outside or in brightly lit areas, and switch to night mode when in a dark room.
  • For restful night’s sleep, the device should be turned off 30-60 minutes.

Blue Light

LT: Is there anything you’d like to add, Dr. Keamy?

JK: Yes. The American Ophthalmology Association stresses that, amid the COVID crisis, parents should not skip their child’s annual checkup. Pediatric eye issues are often caught during routine vision screening. For more information, parents and teachers should visit: https://www.aao.org/newsroom/news-releases/detail/ophthalmologists-anticipate-eye-strain-complaints

LT: Alrighty. Good talk, Dr. Keamy. Let’s hope for a safe and successful school year for our nation’s students.

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