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Eye Health: More than homework overload, school can mean electronic device eye strain


The AOA recommends children follow the 20-20-20 rule while using electronic devices at school - every 20 minutes stop for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. (Photo from AOA)

The AOA recommends children follow the 20-20-20 rule while using electronic devices at school – every 20 minutes stop for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away. (Photo from AOA)

 
By Dr. Dawn Stratton
KyForward columnist
 
Just like many of you who are reading this, my sons headed back to school (reluctantly) this month. The summer included a lot of baseball and time at the pool. There also was a bit of time spent on electronic devices; with school back in session, there’s likely to be even more. In fact, it’s blue light – not sunlight – that will likely sparkle in students’ eyes throughout the school year.
 
The American Optometric Association says there’s a sharp contrast between parents’ and kids’ perceptions of digital device use. “Each year when school starts, we see an increase in kids complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain,” said Lori Roberts, chair of the AOA’s New Technology Committee. “They’re going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices to a classroom full of technology. Their time on devices often doubles, leading to a strain on the eyes.”
 
The integration of technology into the classroom gives more of a reason for children to get an eye exam because kids
 
‣ Are digitally connected a lot. Some 83 percent of children report using an electronic device more than three hours daily, while only 40 percent of parents think their kids exceed that mark. And, 42 percent of kids report five hours of use or more versus only 10 percent of parents that think the same thing.
 
‣ Aren’t taking appropriate breaks. Students aren’t following the 20-20-20 rule, which is: take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and fixate vision on something 20 feet away. A third of kids report taking breaks every few hours or not at all.
 
‣ Are experiencing eye problems. Almost 80 percent of children report their eyes have burned, itched, felt tired or they had blurry vision after using an electronic device. An estimated 75 to 90 percent of all classroom learning happens through visual pathways, so nearly all tasks a child performs depend on good vision.
 
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The AOA recommends every child be seen by an optometrist soon after six months of age and before the age of three. As a result of the pediatric essential health benefit in the Affordable Care Act, children are now covered for yearly comprehensive eye exams through age 18. The AOA has great back-to-school and other helpful resources here.
 

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Dr. Dawn Stratton, O.D., is the founder of Stratton Eyes. She is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry in Chicago and earned her Doctor of Optometry in 1994. Based in Lexington, Dr. Stratton is a member of American Optometric Association, the Kentucky Optometric Association, the National Association of Professional Women and the Fellowship of Christian Optometrists. She also provides eye exams for patients at the Hope Center, Room at the Inn and The Nest. Visit Stratton-Eyes.com for more information or call 859-245-2020 or email office@strattoneyes.com. You can also find the office on Facebook and on Twitter @StrattonEyes.


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