Too much screen time during virtual learning can cause eye strain for kids

MADISON, Wis. — With most students in the Madison area learning from home, they’re staring at screens a lot. Doctors say that can put strain on their eyes.

Kids learning virtually are spending almost all of their school day staring at a screen, and that’s on top of the time they spend watching tv or looking at their phones. SSM Health pediatrician Dr. Julie Waraksa estimates that’s coming out to 6-7 hours a day.

She said limiting that time can make a huge difference.

“You can get a lot of eye strain, which doesn’t cause any permanent damage, but in the short term it can cause headaches, blurry vision, fatigue and neck pain. So what we’re recommending kids do is take frequent breaks. Usually we recommend 20 seconds every 20 minutes and try to focus on something more than 20 feet away,” said Waraksa.

She recommends parents set an alarm to remind kids to take a break. She said if children are struggling to see parents might notice them tilting their heads or squinting their eyes in order to focus. In that case, you should call your doctor.

Waraksa said the amount of people who are nearsighted has doubled since the 1970s. She believes this isn’t just because of more screens, but it has to do with people being indoors all the time.