Whether we’re homeschooling, doing virtual school, or simply giving more TV/tablet time in order to get 15 minutes to ourselves, many of us are allowing more screen time than in years past. But how bad is extra screen time for kids’ eyes? And are tech-y accessories like blue light glasses a good idea? Here’s what we learned when we spoke to experts from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and NY Presbyterian-Columbia.

Temporary Eye Strain Can Occur—But Don’t Worry Too Much
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), kids are no different from adults when it comes to digital eyestrain. Annoying symptoms include dry eye, eye strain, headaches, and blurry vision. But this doesn’t mean the blue light coming from computer screens is permanently damaging their eyes and spurring vision changes.

Frequent Breaks Are Crucial
Even if these symptoms aren’t permanent, they’re not pleasant—so taking regular breaks should be part of your virtual or homeschool schedule. Why? Kids don’t blink when they look at screens like they do when they’re learning in person. A good rule of thumb: take a 20 second break every 20 minutes.  Some more tips from the AAO:

  • Set a timer. Whether a kitchen timer or a smart device, use it to remind your child to take a break every 20 minutes.
  • Alternate reading an e-book with a real book. Encourage children to look up and out the window every two chapters or simply shut their eyes for 20 seconds.
  • Pre-mark books with paperclips every few chapters. When they reach a paper clip, it will remind them look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.

Adjusting the Screen Itself Can Help
“It’s the glare of the screen that’s the problem,” says Dr. Pamela Gallin, Director Emeritus, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Clinical Professor of Ophthalmology in Pediatrics at NY Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center Children’s Hospital of New York. So either changing the position of the screen or of your chair, or lowering the intensity of your screen, could solve your problems with minimal effort.

Blue Light Glasses Won’t Hurt—But They Aren’t Necessary, Either
The research simply isn’t there for experts to recommend them across the board—but experts say they can’t hurt. “There are a lot of people anecdotally that are very happy with them,” says Dr. Gallin. So if you want to try them, she says to go ahead—but know that there are other, proven ways to reduce symptoms (like the ones listed above).

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