As eyes weren’t designed for long hours on digital devices (such as computers, ipads, tablets, phones and television) we recommend the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes on digital devices give your eyes 20 seconds of rest gazing 20 feet (or 6 metres) away. This gives your eye muscles and focus some relaxation and allows your tear film to hold up nicely on the surface of your eyes. If you suffer from dry eye we recommend that you instil some artificial tears/lubricant eye drops to stabilise your tears.
In addition to schoolwork, children shouldn’t be spending more than 4 hours doing constant near work at home. When we are working up close we should hold our books/reading material at a comfortable forearms length distance. Place the palms of your hands towards your shoulders and fold them forward until they reach the tabletop. This is a good working distance of about 40cm. A computer screen should be positioned at a working distance of about an arm's length or greater.
It is recommended that children spend at least 90 minutes outdoors each day to expose their eyes to distance viewing and natural lighting. Children who spend more time outdoors in good sunlight compared to those who don’t are less likely to be nearsighted and develop blured distance vision (known as myopia). Don't forget sun safety such as wearing ultraviolet protected sunglasses, a broad brimmed hat, and sunscreen while outdoors. UV exposure in your younger years may lead to ocular damage that appears in adulthood. Even in the cooler months of winter UV is present.
Some children may develop certain habits such as eye rubbing which could be an indication of an underlying eye problem. Have their eyes checked by an optometrist to determine if your child is suffering from eye allergies, dry eyes, and any underlying vision difficulties that can be causing these habits. It is always best to avoid eye rubbing as this can distort the shape of the cornea (the clear window at the front of the eye) and irritate the skin around the eyes and eyelids. If there is a family history of an eye condition called keratoconus, it is essential to manage any eye allergies and eliminate eye rubbing to reduce the risk of developing astigmatism in your child’s eyes.
Sherwin, J. C., Hewitt, A. W., Coroneo, M. T., Kearns, L. S., Griffiths, Lyn R., & Mackey, D. A. (2012) The association between time spent outdoors and myopia using a novel biomarker of outdoor light exposure. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, 53(8), pp. 4363-4370.