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Online schooling could be causing kids’ eyes to suffer

It’s manageable enough when you can turn the TV off or take the game away, but now, the coronavirus crisis has thrown screen time rules out the window.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Whether it’s a cell phone, television, or tablet, anything with a screen seems to be a kid magnet.

“I know a lot of parents are concerned about the amount of time kids are spending on screens now,” said Dr. Elliot McKee, a pediatric ophthalmologist with Charlotte Eye Ear Nose and Throat Associates.

It’s manageable enough when you can turn the TV off or take the game away, but now, the coronavirus crisis has thrown screen time rules out the window.

“It’s so hard to follow them anyway right now when kids are on the screen for school, some hours a day,” Dr. McKee said.

Dr. McKee says their eyes will feel it.

“It’s pretty well known that when you spend all day staring at a screen all day, you don’t blink as much,” Dr. McKee said. “You’re focusing real hard on something up close to you and it just makes your eyes feel bad.”

Dr. McKee says there are signs that their eyes are being strained.

“Their child’s eyes look tired, their eyes bother them, they're rubbing their eyes, they’re complaining about the feeling they get from looking at the screen all day,” Dr. McKee said.

Dr. McKee says too much time inside could have more long-lasting effects.

“The best research says spending more time inside and less time outside can actually make your eye grow differently and make you need glasses worse as you grow up, and there’s a lot of interest in if screen time plays a role in that too,” Dr. McKee said.

If your kids are spending a lot of time on the screen, Dr. McKee says they should follow the 20-20-20 rule.

“Every twenty minutes, you look at something at least 20 feet away, for about 20 seconds,” Dr. McKee said. “Doing that resets your eyes.”

Unfortunately for kids, Dr. McKee says kids shouldn’t go from online school to screen time for playing - but play outside to give their eyes a break.

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