Doctor says children should limit time spent looking at screens

As more children spend their school day in front of a computer, an ophthalmologist has stressed the importance of taking breaks from screens

An ophthalmologist has highlighted the importance of children taking breaks from their digital screens to minimise risks to eye health.

More children are spending the school day in front of a computer since schools were forced to shut to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Ophthalmologist and director of research at Clearly, Dr Graeme Mackenzie, said the effects of screen time is an area of emerging academic interest.

He said: “One survey conducted by the Vision Council reveals that American adults report their children experience the following after being exposed to two or more hours of screen time: headaches (8.8%); neck/shoulder pain (5%); eye strain, dry or irritated eyes (9.1%); reduced attention span (15.2%); poor behaviour (13.3%); irritability (13.5%).”

Taking a break from screens

“What’s critical is that children limit the time spent looking at digital displays,” said Dr Mackenzie.

“We recommend following the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes take your eyes off your screen, pick an object that is 20 feet away (about six metres) and keep looking at that object for 20 seconds.

Clearly has developed an activity pack for 6-16 year olds to learn more about their eyes, to encourage activities that do not involve screen time.

In a statement made before Easter, Jane Prescott, president of the Girls’ Schools Association and headmistress of Portsmouth High School, encouraged parents to limit children’s screen time during the Easter holidays.

She said about the Easter activities she had proposed: “With all of these activities, I suggest limiting screen time if at all possible. There’ll be plenty of time for that when remote learning is re-established after Easter; that’s when children can use whatever digital device they might have to help with their school work in a safe, secure environment.”

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