No blog is complete without first mentioning just how weird 2020 has been so far. And as summer comes to an end, back-to-school season begins. Except this year is just a little weirder than the last… for many of us, our kids won’t need packed lunches or extra boxes of tissues to bring to school because school is being brought home instead. Virtual classrooms are going to be a large part of how kids attend class this fall, which means they’ll be spending a lot of time in front of a computer screen. As important as education is in any form, it’s equally important to make sure that education doesn’t come with a price: namely eye discomfort.
Our eyes are a lot more sensitive than anyone thinks they are. When we sit in front of a computer screen (or phone screen) for too long, the bright, blue-white light can strain our eyes. It’s like looking straight into a flashlight. When we (and our kids) look at a screen for too long, our eyes can get tired, feel dry and irritated, and even start to get a headache. This is because of HEV light.
High-energy visible light (HEV light) encompasses greens, blues, and violets on the visible light spectrum. These colors are higher on the spectrum and have shorter wavelengths than colors like reds, oranges, and yellows. The shorter the wavelength is, the more energy is produced. The more energy being produced, the more strain our eyes can have when we try to adjust to the light. HEV light is present in every digital screen. Everything from smartphones to laptops and TVs use white light to help produce vibrant, life-like color. However, that amount of white light (especially if your screen is at full brightness), can be too harsh for our light-sensitive retinas. That results in eye strain and headaches.
Children can be just as susceptible to these harsh lights as adults, if not more. The lens of a child’s eye absorbs less HEV light than an adult’s eye can, which means HEV light can potentially have higher risk of long term damage for children (to date, the effects are not well understood). Bright digital screens can also deter natural sleepiness around bedtime, which is critical for kids to recharge and excel the next day.
But worry not! Even though your kids might be attending class via Zoom or Canvas, there are still a few handy tricks we recommend to keep their eyes safe. Of course, it starts with a comprehensive eye exam. Once your child has started grade school, an eye exam is recommended every two years, unless they already have a diagnosed eye condition. If your child complains about having blurry vision or a headache after class because of the proximity of the screen, an eye exam is recommended to look for any signs of any eye conditions, need for spectacle correction, or irritation. 80% of all learning is visual.
Blue light glasses.
Blue light glasses, even if they aren’t paired with a prescription, are fantastic for any kind of computer use. Of course, we still recommend taking breaks from the screen altogether (more on that in a moment), but wearing blue-light filtering glasses can help mitigate the harshness of a digital screen. Just like how sunglasses can help block UV rays thanks to a UV protective coating, blue-light glasses have a coating that blocks the more dangerous HEV light that has been linked to eye strain and inner eye damage.
Computer specific glasses.
We recommend a pair of glasses with a mild prescription for all near work, including computer, reading and phone. These glasses are specific for near work and will reduce the amount of focusing a person has to do.
We recommend the 20/20/20 rule for everyone, kids and adults alike. For every 20 minutes you’re in front of a screen, take at least a 20-second break to look at something at least 20 feet away. And blink! This practice encourages more blinking and refocusing your gaze, breaking the “no blinking trance” or “staring contest” we inadvertently have with our screens.
Taking breaks from the screen is very important. Sure, there will be lunch breaks and hopefully recess (how does one play kickball at home?), but it’s critical for kids to take a break away from the screen every so often. Even if you’re using the 20/20/20 rule, staying in front of the screen for too long will still cause your child to experience headaches and fatigue. Setting aside time for tactile activities like doing homework with a pencil and paper or reading time or coloring allows a child’s eyes to reset and readjust to more natural lighting, all the while staying productive.
No matter the age, your kids will learn a lot this year, mostly because they’ll be learning in an entirely different way. Understanding the challenges they may face is only half the battle; the other half is knowing how to help them cope and succeed in this new virtual environment.
We’re here to help on both fronts! Through eye exams, pediatric glasses fittings, and by offering a wealth of knowledge, your child can go back to virtual class safely and comfortably. In fact, we can help your entire family, no matter the age! Since re-opening, we’ve put safety measures in place to keep you, us, and our office clean. Schedule your family to come in today for check-ups before the school year starts.