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Sunday, November 29, 2020

COVID-19 lockdown: How parents can ensure their child’s eye health

There is a projection that 50 per cent of the world population would be myopic by 2050.

By: Parenting Desk | New Delhi | April 13, 2020 6:30:46 pm
eye health, keeping eyes safe during lockdown, children and gadgets, parenting, indian express, indian express news Common eye-related problems faced by children who use gadgets are blurred vision, discomfort, eyestrain, fatigue, dryness and headache. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

By Dr N Anuradha

There was always a concern about the use of gadgets, screen time and eye health. With the COVID-19 crisis, average screen time of children is on the rise with online classes, homework, chat with friends, gaming and watching shows or movies. Left with no choice of going out or playing with neighbours, the screening time is on the rise. Studies have shown both positive and negative effects on uses of gadgets among children.

There is a projection that 50 per cent of the world population would be myopic by 2050. Increase in myopia was also known to be associated with more than two hours of gadget or television use every day. Also known are the effects of prolonged use of computers known commonly as ‘computer vision syndrome’ associated with eye strain, dryness, irritation of eyes, etc. There is also evidence that speech problems, attention deficits, depression and communication issues exist with children addicted to the gadgets.

But there is also evidence on using software applications to correct eye muscle problems among children, video games for correcting lazy eyes (amblyopia) among young adults and computer based tests that were specially built to assess visual function of kids who cannot otherwise respond. There are also studies that emphasise the positive effects of gadgets on children as improved motor activities with hands and fingers, improved cognitive ability, learning and education apart from the fun and happiness that kids enjoy.

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We see that kids of all ages are attracted to gadgets and handle them with ease. Hence a balance could be reached between the use of gadgets and taking care of their eyes.

Schools and colleges have regular online sessions and could be seen as a potential medium in the future too. Such activities cannot be omitted totally. However, to take care of children’s eye health in such times, the following guidelines should be followed:

At the eye level

Common eye-related problems faced by children who use gadgets are blurred vision, discomfort, eyestrain, fatigue, dryness and headache. This is because of three reasons — not using recommended refractive correction, not blinking adequately and continuous viewing of the screen leading to overuse of the accommodative power of the eyes. Therefore, it is important to:

  • Wear spectacles as prescribed by the doctor.

  • Put a screen saver or pop-up in the gadget to remind you to blink adequately. People often forget to blink while staring at screens leading to dryness of eyes followed by irritation.

  • Give breaks to eyes after 20-30 minutes by palming or looking at a distant object or take a 10-minute break from the screen after one hour of use.

  • Maintain a distance of at least a foot away from the gadget when sitting straight.

eye health, keeping eyes safe during lockdown, children and gadgets, parenting, indian express, indian express news Children tend to forget about brightness levels as it is mostly set according to the needs of adults who use them often. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

At the gadget level

  • Children often use different gadgets like desktops, laptops, mobile phones but they tend to disregard the positioning of these gadgets, lighting from the gadgets and the surroundings which can lead to fatigue, neck and back pain apart from the eye problems.

  • Keep the monitor slightly below eye level as too high or low a position can cause neck pain. Too high a position also makes children open their eyes more leading to evaporation of tears

  • Children tend to forget about brightness levels as it is mostly set according to the needs of adults who use them often. Keep brightness low compared to surrounding and removing or rearranging glare sources can help avoid eye strain.

At the user level

  • Ensure customised furniture for children to avoid neck or body pain and provide comfortable working.

  • Ensure that the child’s foot rests firmly.

  • Keep keyboards accessible to children such that their hands and straight.

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Some tips

  • Because of dryness caused by inadequate blinking children tend to rub their eyes. Parents should ensure that children avoid rubbing their eyes as it would increase irritation and also make them prone to infections in the current scenario.

  • Set time for screen activities of children and ensure adequate sleep.

  • Parents should also ask children to wash their eyes and face frequently.

  • Make children drink lots of water.

  • Introduce traditional games and be a part, ensure sleep time and duration.

(The writer is Program in charge, School Children Eye Health, Sankara Nethralaya and Orbis REACH project)

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