Children are suffering from dry eyes related to “digital eye strain”, from the hours they spend staring at screens.
Most people spend a lot of time looking at screens now, on phones, computers, iPads, and laptops, but the problem is especially acute for children growing up in the digital age.
Symptoms of dry eye include a feeling of grit or something sharp in the eye, crusting on eyelids, redness, blurry vision and light sensitivity.
University of Canberra Optometrist Dr Nicola Anstice says Australian children are visiting optometrists more often with visual problems related to screen use.
“Evidence from studies indicates dry eye and digital eye strain is an issue in kids today and prevalence of dry eye in children is higher than ever,” Dr Anstice says.
She explains that when we look at digital screens, we often don’t do a full blink, or only do a partial blink, resulting in reduced eye lubrication.
About 80% of children report digital eye strain when using digital devices. This can cause eye strain, weakness or fatigue of the eye, pain in the eye, headaches, focusing problems and dry eye.
Some research has found that 68% of pre-schoolers aged three to five regularly use computers, and over half participate in regular online activity. The average time eight to 18-year-olds use digital devices is 7.5 hours per day, and even pre-schoolers use electronic screens for up to 2.5 hours a day.
Optometry Australia recommends the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20 second break from screens every 20 minutes and look at an object at least 20 feet away for around 20 seconds.