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Increasing use of screen-time causing eye problems for students

Increasing use of screen-time causing eye problems for students

With distance learning into its third month, the number of students complaining of tired eyes and redness has risen significantly

Follow practical steps such as the 20-20-20 rule, blinking often and keeping devices at safe distance to help relax eye muscles, advises doctor at RAK Hospital

June 2, 2020; Ras Al Khaimah, UAE: Increasing screen-time due to distance learning has resulted in a significant rise in complaints of eye issues such as redness and tired eyes, especially among children and young adults, says Dr Mohit Jain, Specialist Ophthalmologist at RAK Hospital. Dr Jain further cautioned parents and students to adopt necessary measures to minimize the impact of what is known as ‘Computer Vision Syndrome’.

“Using digital devices during distance learning is unavoidable. However, when we focus on a screen, the muscles in the eyes contract. If the muscles stay contracted for too long, they get tired and lead to strain and may affect eyesight, especially in the growing age. This excessive use of devices not only puts a strain on the eyes but is also a risk factor for eye weakness and myopia. In other words, students staring at screens for prolonged periods may end up wearing glasses, and if they are wearing glasses already, the power may increase rapidly,” warned Dr Jain.

More severe consequences of prolonged screen-time can be blurred vision, neck pain, irritated eyes, dizziness, double vision, and difficulty in refocusing eyes.

Discussing tips on ways to moderate the excessive use of devices, Dr Jain advised that parents – as a first step – need to restrict the use of devices when it comes to entertainment and amusement. More importantly, children need to follow the 20-20-20 rule to give their eyes much-needed break from watching the screen – that is, after every 20 minutes of screen time; they should look away and stare at a distance of approximately 20 feet for 20 seconds before looking back at the device. This helps to relax the eye muscles.

“Generally, when children stare at screens, they tend to blink far less than they would usually do causing the eyes to dry out. Blinking keeps the eyes moist and clean. Therefore, parents should encourage their children to blink at regular intervals, even if it requires constant repeated reminders. A simple tip to do that is to stick a reminder note to the device itself”, added Dr Jain. He also advised parents to ensure that children and young adults should keep their devices at a safe distance of 18 to 26 inches to avoid ‘over contracting’ the eye muscles.

Other tips include sitting in a place open to natural sunlight which is far more beneficial to the eyes and opting for regular check-ups to ensure perfect eye health.

Dr Raza Siddiqui, Executive Director at RAK Hospital added: “Given the current situation where children and young adults are spending more than usual hours in front of the screens, parents need the right guidelines to help them counter this problem. We hope that more students will follow these practical steps to protect their eyesight while at the same time continue with distance learning”.

As per the World Economic Forum, globally around 1.2 billion children are out of classrooms raising concern regarding the constant exposure to devices and its impact on eye health. Across the UAE, nearly 1.1 million students have been studying from home since March 2020.

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