Did your children get digital eye strain staring at computers too much during the COVID 2020/21 school “break?” What’s going to happen as they return to school this month and spend more time on digital devices?

Ophthalmologists are expecting a school year filled with eye strain complaints.

The American Optometric Association describes digital eye strain as a group of eye- and vision-related problems. These result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader, and cell phone use.

“I was a digital eye strain naysayer prior to recent events,” said Stephen Lipsky, MD, pediatric ophthalmologist and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “But in my practice, I really have seen a marked increase in kids suffering from eye strain because of increased screen time.”

He adds though “The good news is most symptoms can be avoided by taking a few simple steps.”

As August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, we thought we would do our part to prevent what eye strain damage we could with the following tips.

Warning Signs

There are some specific warning signs that your children could have vision problems. Some of these include:

  • Wandering or crossed eyes
  • A family history of childhood vision problems
  • Disinterest in reading or viewing distant objects
  • Squinting or unusually turning the head while watching television



It’s ok to blink.

Children can get so focused while using computers that they don’t blink as often as they should. This non-action can cause headaches, blurry vision, and tired, dry eyes.

Then we have a domino effect. When kids focus on the same distance for a long time, it can cause vision to blur temporarily. Muscles around the eye will tire. This can cause headaches. Extended reading, writing, or other intensive near work can also cause eye strain.

Take a break

The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes when using a digital device.

For example, when at home, parents can set a timer. A kitchen timer or a smart device, it doesn’t matter. The idea is to remind and reinforce the idea that your children should take a break every 20 minutes.

This next idea can work at home, at school, at the library, or even while traveling. Pre-mark books with paperclips every few chapters. When children reach a paper clip, it will remind them to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.

Another similar option is to encourage kids to look up and out the window every two chapters. Even just closing their eyes for 20 seconds will do.

Learning Through the Eyes

Nearly 80% of children’s learning occurs through the eyes. This includes reading, writing, and observing the world around them. During Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month let’s see if we can work with teachers and kids to limit digital eye strain.

This post was written by Anthony M Scialis. Find him here.