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Extra screen time causing spike in student eyestrain

Lisa Mayoh, August 25, 2021 7:00PM News Corp Australia Network

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Besties Clementine Schofield and Georgie Payne, both 7, wear glasses and their parents have noticed an increase dependency on their vision support with the extra screen time caused by lockdowns. Picture: Tim Hunter media_cameraBesties Clementine Schofield and Georgie Payne, both 7, wear glasses and their parents have noticed an increase dependency on their vision support with the extra screen time caused by lockdowns. Picture: Tim Hunter

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Are you getting headaches, blurred vision and tired, dry eyes after a long screen session? If you are, you are not alone.

Too much screen time is taking its toll on the eyesight of Australian kids, with a 21 per cent jump in school-aged children needing glasses in the five years to 2020 – that is one in every five students.

Seven-year-old besties Clementine Schofield and Georgie Payne both wear glasses, and their parents have noticed how much more they need them because of the increased time on devices for homeschooling during lockdown.

“Clementine got her glasses in kindy and we definitely find she needs them a lot more now since she is on the iPad all the time for school,” mum Aasa said.

“She needs them more regularly and her eyes get so tired — even with the glasses she still needs regular breaks, so we try and go outside and see the sunshine and get off the screens when we can.

“I’m lucky she loves them, though. She’s got three pairs in all different colours and when she got them all her friends were jealous, so we got lucky.”

Classmates Clementine Schofield and Georgie Payne, media_cameraBest friends Clementine Schofield and Georgie Payne, 7, are among a growing number of Australian children who need glasses. Picture: Tim Hunter

The new data from HCF Australia has also revealed a 28.8 per cent hike in high school-aged students needing glasses or contact lenses, with a 9.53 per cent increase for primary school pupils.

Senior optometrist* Whitney Lam said more young patients were being diagnosed* with myopia, or short-sightedness, and that screen time was a contributing culprit*.

“Myopia is one of the most prevalent* problems,” Ms Lam said.

“Our members are telling us they’re increasingly concerned about their kids spending more time on screens, especially during lockdown, and they’re right to be concerned — global studies are now telling us that increased screen time is associated with increased rates of myopia.

“Technology is helping so many families get through lockdown.

“While we can’t escape screens, we do want to help families with the right tips, tools and strategies to firstly identify signs of myopia, and then to slow its rate of progression*.”

telehealth media_cameraDr Kristy Goodwin said there was no doubt that school-aged children experienced significantly more digital exposure during lockdowns.

Digital wellbeing specialist Kristy Goodwin said there was no doubt that school-aged children’s digital exposure had increased significantly during lockdowns.

“I’ve delivered seminars* to thousands of parents, students and teachers throughout Australia during lockdown and a common denominator* that many are concerned about is digital eyestrain,” Dr Goodwin said.

“Children and adolescents are reporting that they’re experiencing an increase in eyestrain symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, tired eyes, redness or dry eyes after long periods in front of screens.

“Many children and teens are also reporting feeling digitally fatigued* during lockdown and their tech habits can be a contributing factor.”

SAVE YOUR SIGHT

With lockdowns, homeschooling and the reality of modern life, it is not realistic to expect any child to disconnect altogether. But there are things you and your parents can do to protect your precious eyesight from lifelong harm. Here are senior optometrist Whitney Lam’s top five tips.

Look out for symptoms
You should not be getting headaches or blurred vision, and if you catch yourself squinting or rubbing your eyes a lot, that can also be the sign of an issue.

Follow 20/20/20
Look into the distance for 20 seconds every 20 minutes and blink 20 times. Ask your mum or dad to set a timer to remind all of you to pause and look away from the screen – your parents should be doing this too!

Keep your distance
Keep devices and reading materials at least an extended arm’s length away from your face.

Light it up
Devices in the dark? Please don’t do it! Poor surrounding light while you’re reading or watching something on a device increases eyestrain.

Head into the great outdoors
More time spent outside can help stop you becoming a shortsighted teenager, among multiple other health benefits.

GLOSSARY

  • optometrist: provides eye and sight care, examines people to detect vision problems
  • diagnosed: identity type or nature of medical issue or illness
  • culprit: cause of a problem or defect
  • prevalent: widespread in a particular area or at a specific time
  • progression: progress, advance, development
  • seminar: class, lecture, session, conference
  • common denominator: feature shared by all members of a group
  • fatigue: extreme tiredness, exhaustion

EXTRA READING

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. What are symptoms of myopia?
  2. What year was Clementine Scofield in when she first needed glasses?
  3. What proportion increase has there been in the five years to 2020 in Australian kids needing glasses?
  4. What is a contributing culprit in the increasing number of kids with myopia?
  5. What are many children and teens reportedly feeling during lockdown, according to Dr Goodwin?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Save our eyes
What would your advice be to school teachers planning for learning from home to try and reduce eye strain for kids?



What sort of learning activities would you like to do that don’t involve screen time but are still educational and enjoyable?



Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Health and Physical Education; Critical and Creative Thinking

2. Extension
If you have access to a phone or iPad, check your ‘screen time’ settings. This lets you know how long you’ve used the device for each day. Go to ‘settings’ then ‘screen time’ on apple devices.

On android devices go to Settings > Digital Wellbeing & parental controls > menu > Manage your data > toggle on Daily device usage.

The recommended screen time would usually be no more than two hours per day. However, during home learning, if you are using this device, it might be more.

Check your screen time settings, or even your parents’ phones, and make a family commitment to try and reduce this each day by the end of the week.

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English; Digital Technologies; Personal and Social

VCOP ACTIVITY
1. Summarise the article
A summary is a brief statement of the main points of something. It does not usually include extra detail or elaborate on the main points.

Use the 5W & H model to help you find the key points of this article. Read the article carefully to locate who and what this article is about, and where, when, why and how this is happening. Once you have located this information in the article, use it to write a paragraph that summarises the article.

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