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New Years Resolutions

Top Ten New Years Resolutions for Screen time and Kids Eyes

(Note – You can read my previous Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Healthy Vision for Eye Health, Children’s Vision, Saving Money on Eyecare, Myopia Control, and Computer Vision Syndrome, -Dr. Nate)

Did your child receive any gifts with screens this holiday season? Or gifts such as a movie or new video game that are viewed on screens? My kids did. And they are VERY excited about them. They are not alone. The kids that I see in my office beg, whine, wheedle, and cajole their parents into as much screen time as possible. Many of them have their own tablets. And this is incredibly common. In fact, one 2015 study found that three quarters of 4 year-olds had their own devices.

There are obvious benefits for children to use technology. They can watch educational programming, Skype with distant friends and relatives, and download STEM and creative apps. But all of this screen time can come with downsides. One is childhood obesity. Another is social awareness and skill.

Others problem associated with screen time have to do with vision. This is something I talk about all day, every day at Bright Eyes Kids. Increased screen time can put children at risk for myopia (nearsightedness). Games such as Minecraft can be great, but can cause headaches and blurry vision due to eyestrain. In fact, eyestrain from device use can actually contribute to digital eyestrain or other visual problems that can make school work more difficult and require vision therapy to treat.

10 ways to keep your child’s electronic device use healthy:

  1. Set a clear Family Media Use Plan. For example, in my house, my children are not allowed screen time before noon. It is worth reading the American Academy of Pediatrics statement on media use from October 2016 to get some ideas.
  2. Optometrists recommend that people of all ages limit screen time to 20 minute intervals. Teach your child about the 202020 rule, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and focus on something 20 feet away. Every hour, take a longer break.
  3. Buy a blue light reducing screen protector for your child’s phone, computer or tablet. http://health-e.com/offers one that reduces by 30%, but they offer through select optometrists 60% reduction.
  4. Mitigate the potential damage of focusing on close images, by having your child spend 2 hours a day outside. A recent study showed a 2% reduction of Myopia progression for every hour a week spent outside, or 28% for 2 hours a day.
  5. Minimize electronic device usage at night, a recent Harvard study showed that blue light at night effects melatonin levels, which effect sleep, blood sugar levels, and may be linked to certain other diseases.
  6. Ask your doctor about computer glasses or contacts which are specially designed to reduce eye strain by reducing the visual focus needed for computer use.
  7. Create fun alternatives to electronic devices, write a list of “cool” activities to do throughout the week. Great alternatives are outdoor time, board games, and creative projects. Even things as simple as walking to grocery store can be more rewarding than most things are your child’s screen.
  8. Role model proper screen use. As always our children learn from us, if we are glued to the screen, they will be less likely to take screen limitations seriously. Make a New Year’s resolution to limit your screen time and be more present for your kids. This is hard, but important!
  9. Make sure your child’s posture is not being affected by the chair or couch they are using while watching TV or on the computer. Adolescents with high computer usage were nearly twice as likely to report neck and back pain than those with moderate use.
  10. Talk to your eye doctor if your child avoids using the computer or complains about blurred vision or eye fatigue when using a screen, as this may signify a larger issue that needs to be addressed.

Happy New Year. May 2017 be better than 2016. 🙂

-Dr. Nate

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Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions for Computer Vision Syndrome

If 2010 has taught me anything, it is that our lives are becoming increasingly digital. Not only is more of our work performed on computers and online, but much of our leisure time, too. This is illustrated by the fact that Amazon has recently announced that it has sold more Kindles than any other book or product. But all of this time in front of screens can take its toll on our eyes. They may become irritated and red. Your vision may become blurry or double. And all this may make you less productive at work or reduce your gaming performance. All of these symptoms are elements of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Fortunately, there are things that you can do limit the effects of CVS.

Every new year I provide the Bright Eyes Family Vision Care Top Ten New Year’s Resolutions. In past years, I’ve covered eye health, children’s vision, and saving money. So for 2011, to help you keep your eyes in optimum condition at the computer or digital device, this year’s resolutions list will help you combat Computer Vision Syndrome.

1. Take Breaks – Your eyes work hard when using the computer, e-readers, and phones. Give them some time to relax. Use the “20-20-20 rule.” Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break, and look at something 20 feet away. Every hour or so, talk a longer break. I use and recommend a free application called Workrave that is fully customizable to help you remember to give your eyes (and hands) a rest.

2. Monitor Settings – Today most people have LCD screens. Generally, the larger the screen the better. Increase the font size if it helps.

3. Monitor Position – Position your monitor at least 22 inches away and at an angle that you don’t have to look up most of the time. Making it a natural, comfortable position can help limit eyestrain and neck problems.

4. Blink! – Research studies show that people blink less when using the computer, up to 1/3 less. Blinking washes your eyes in naturally Computerstherapeutic tears, so be sure to blink on a regular basis.

5. Glasses – Make sure you have proper lenses for the computer. Specially prescribed computer glasses may help significantly reduce the symptoms of CVS. Often these are different from glasses for driving and general activities like shopping. Ask your optometrist if you would benefit from computer lenses.

6. Lighting – Keep bright lighting overhead to a minimum. Keep your desk lamp or window light shining on your desk, not on your monitor. Try to keep window light off to the side, rather than in front or behind you.

7. Position your chair – Your body position effects your eye position – and vice versa. Make sure you are sitting in a chair with adequate lower-back support. Position your chair so that you are comfortable. Each person has a preference for his or her chair, so take some time to find what’s best for you.

8. Eye exams – Be sure to discuss CVS with your optometrist at your annual eye exam. He or she will discuss your computer use and can perform specific tests to determine if you would benefit from computer glasses, eye drops or medical treatment.

9. Gadgets – iPads, Kindles, Blackberries and other mobile devices are hugely useful, but have tiny screens and can cause even more symptoms than a desktop computer. Be aware of issues like glare and be sure and take frequent breaks.

10. Don’t forget the kids! – Keep in mind that children can experience CVS, too. And they are less self-aware and are less likely to tell parents if they are having problems. So set limits ahead of time and watch them for any signs of visual problems. This applies to hand-held games, too – especially soon to be released Nintendo 3DS.

If you didn’t have a thorough eye exam in 2010, don’t put it off any longer. Give us a call at 813-792-0637 to schedule your appointment. We’ll make sure your eyes are working their best at the computer! You can also read more about Computer Vision Syndrome on our blog.

A special thanks to Dr. Jeffrey Anshel of Corporate Vision Consulting for providing input for this list.

See Well!

Dr. Nate

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD
Bright Eyes Family Vision Care

 

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