Alberta parents not protecting children from digital eye strain

Digital eye strain is a growing concern at home and in the classroom as children head back to school

EDMONTON, Aug. 15, 2017 /CNW/ - A new survey commissioned by the Alberta Association of Optometrists reveals that 59 per cent of Alberta parents are not aware of or do not encourage their children to take steps during or after using digital devices to reduce the impact on their eyes. This, despite the fact that children are spending more and more time staring at screens at home and in the classroom.

"Digital eye strain is the discomfort experienced after screen use for more than two hours at a time," said Dr. Jim Asuchak, practicing optometrist and president of the Alberta Association of Optometrists. "Alberta children are, on average, spending at least double that amount of time on digital devices, and we are seeing the results in our exam chairs."

According to Alberta parents, elementary school-aged children spend more than four hours a day using digital devices at home and at school. That number rises to nearly eight hours a day for teenagers. Staring at objects up-close for extended periods can cause digital eye strain, along with exposure to blue light that is emitted by digital devices.

"While the long-term effects of exposure to blue light are still being discovered, we know that digital eye strain can cause discomfort that can be distracting and even debilitating," said Dr. Asuchak. "Since 80 per cent of learning is visual, this can affect a child's ability to focus and learn in the classroom."

Symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, irritability, blurred vision, sensitivity to light, eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing or dry eyes and excessive blinking or squinting. While only 28 per cent of parents say their child experiences symptoms during or after using digital devices, it's important to note that digital eye strain may be difficult for parents to detect because children may not show obvious signs of discomfort. 

"The best way to know if your child is suffering from digital eye strain is to take them for a comprehensive eye exam with an optometrist," said Dr. Asuchak. "We can evaluate the child and recommend a customized solution based on the child's digital habits, to help prevent discomfort." 

Parents can also encourage their children to take preventative measures at home and at school to reduce the risk of digital eye strain, including:

  • Take regular breaks.
  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule by looking 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
  • Don't hold screens too close, especially for long periods of time.
  • Eliminate screen glare by reducing overhead lighting.
  • Position computers slightly below eye level and at arm's length.
  • Increase text size on digital devices.
  • Adjust screen brightness.

Back to school season is a great time for parents to take their children for a comprehensive eye exam to ensure they have healthy eyes and clear vision before they get back in the classroom. The Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends that children have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and yearly after starting school. Infants should have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age. Alberta Health covers the cost of annual eye exams for children up to age 19.

Survey details
The data was collected through an online survey conducted through the Angus Reid Forum panel. The research was facilitated by MARU/Matchbox. Results were collected between July 13th and 18th among n=506 Albertans with children aged 18 or under. The estimated margin of error for the sample is +/-4.4 per cent at a 95 per cent confidence interval and +/- 3.7 per cent at a 90 per cent confidence level.

About the Alberta Association of Optometrists
The Alberta Association of Optometrists represents more than 700 optometrists across the province. The Association works to promote excellence in the practice of optometry, to enhance public recognition of optometry as the primary vision care provider in Alberta, and to advance the interests of the profession. For more information or to find an optometrist, visit www.optometrists.ab.ca.

SOURCE Alberta Association of Optometrists

For further information: Jenna Shaw, Edelman, 403.817.0624, Jenna.Shaw@Edelman.com

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Alberta Association of Optometrists

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