Digital eye strain a growing concern as kids head back to school

By Ashley Wiebe
August 22, 2017 - 5:03pm Updated: August 22, 2017 - 7:08pm

 

MEDICINE HAT, AB — A new study suggests kids in elementary school spend more than four hours a day using digital devices at school and at home. Teens are staring at screens for nearly eight hours a day.

Technology is all around us and it's hard on our eyes, but a local optometrist said there are a few things you can do to help prevent digital eye strain.

It's a message Mikayla Moore, 13, is taking with her when she starts Grade 9 in a few weeks.

“Her body has to work so hard to be able to focus on those words, that it’s like she ran a marathon after reading an assignment,” said her mom, Kristen Moore.

Mikayla is excited to see her friends and start her new classes. She said her favourite subjects are math and science.

She had some trouble with her assignment last year and her mom hopes those problems don’t resurface.

“She was having ocular episodes that would react like an ocular migraine and they’d actually steal her eyesight for multiple hours,” Kristen said. “There’s really nothing we could do about them except limit the screen time and take some rest.”

That’s not always easy, considering technology has taken over the classroom.

More schools have made the switch to smartboards and students are using their laptops, tablets and smartphones for more assignments.

The transition hasn’t been easy on Mikayla’s eyes.

“They don’t come home with text books in most of their classes,” Kristen added. “Every bit of information they find is on their smart boards or on their tablets, on their cell phones. They’re more or less expected to have a smart phone available for them all the time in class.”

Optometrist Dr. Nobe Nijjar said more and more people are experiencing digital eye strain and are asking about how they can protect their eyes.

“What we’re learning now is that there’s certain types of light that irritate peoples eyes more than others and so they’ve created these filters now to block out those, what we call wave lengths, to give people relief,” Nijjar said.

Blue light filters help block out the harsh light, given off by phones and computer screens.

Nijjar said taking regular breaks by looking away also helps, along with holding your device further away and blinking more often than you think while concentrating on the screen in front of you.

“The blue light [filter] is going to be critical, I think, to get her through Grade 9 next year, with so much studying and huge PAT exams and things like that,” Kristen said. “The provincial exams are a lot of pressure for Grade 9 students.”

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