September 1, 2020

Eye safety and care for students with heavy screen time

As many districts begin the school year with virtual learning, students’ time in front of screens might increase significantly.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids age 8-18 already spend an average of 7.5 hours in front of screens each day for entertainment. So, UW Health ophthalmologists are offering tips for parents whose children prepare to increase their screen time through virtually learning.

  • The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain (eye fatigue from looking at screens too long). That rule is for every 20 minutes you look at a screen, take a break and look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to rest.  

  • Take breaks outside or do physical activities. Breaks are key to allow the eyes to rest and not feel dry. The CDC recommends kids get at least 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

  • Make sure your child’s glasses or eye prescription is up to date. UW Health officials recommend yearly eye exams if your child wears glasses, or a vision screen at school or by your child’s primary care doctor if they have normal vision.

  • Monitor your child for fatigue and headaches because these could be signs of side effects from screen use that could need a doctor's attention.

"COVID-19 has impacted every part of our lives, including the time students will spend in front of screens for virtual learning this fall," said Dr. Yasmin Bradfield, UW Health pediatric ophthalmologist. "The key is balancing screen time with other activities. To take care of your eyes, take frequent breaks."