Increased screen time makes back-to-school eye exams more important than ever


"Eye exams are one area where it's really important to get them in because 80-percent of our learning comes from our visual system," Dr. Dinwiddie said. "If they are even off by a little bit, it can really effect how they perform."

ROGERS, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Doctors say with increased screen time, eye exams are more important than ever as kids get ready to go back to school.

Between ZOOM video chats, staying indoors, and virtual learning, studies show children are logging twice as much screen time as they did before COVID-19.

Dr. Jessica Dinwiddie, an optometrist at The Exclusive Eye in Rogers, said too much screen time often makes the eyes work harder, which can lead to vision problems down the road.

Dr. Dinwiddie said 80-percent of learning comes from our visual system, so staying on top of your child’s eye health is one thing parents can do to make sure their student is ready for school no matter what that might look like this year.

I feel like the more that we can help them and set them up to succeed, the better.


Long periods of screen time can contribute to digital eye strain.

Some symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes

Dr. Dinwiddie said you can help mitigate these problems by taking frequent breaks, blinking routinely, and disengaging before bedtime.

See the Arkansas Optometric Association full press release below:

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, parents face many uncertainties when sending their children back to school this year. However, doctors of optometry remind parents one item that should remain on the back-to-school to-do list, whether your child will be in-class or attending virtually, is scheduling a comprehensive eye exam.

“Academic difficulties for school-aged children are often linked to a vision problem, but eye exams are frequently overlooked when testing to diagnose a child’s learning discrepancies,” said Dr. Jeff Netzel, president of the Arkansas Optometric Association.  “Vision problems can impact a child’s ability to learn in the classroom, his or her experience in sports, as well as with other activities.  A comprehensive eye exam is a crucial part of ensuring a student’s overall health and wellness,” said Dr. Netzel.

Eye health is especially important these days, when students are spending more and more time in front of screens, and when many will be attending school virtually this fall.  Data shows students age 6-12 are logging twice as much screen time as they did before COVID-19.  “Prolonged viewing of digital screens often makes the eyes work harder, and factors like screen size, glare, or brightness can make an individual more susceptible to vision problems,” said Dr. Netzel. 

Long periods of computer, tablet, or cell phone use can contribute to a group of symptoms referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eye Strain.  These symptoms commonly include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.  Uncorrected vision problems such as farsightedness or astigmatism can worsen these symptoms.  Regular eye exams and proper viewing habits can reduce Digital Eye Strain.  The 20-20-20 rule is a good rule of thumb:  For every 20 minutes of screen time, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds to allow your eyes to refocus. 

“So many things are out of our control during this uncertain time, but being proactive and staying on top of your child’s eye health is one thing parents can do to make sure their student is ready for school – whatever that may look like this year,” said Dr. Netzel.

Factors to Mitigate Digital Eye Strain:

· Screen position — Most people find it more comfortable to view a computer when the eyes are looking downward.

· Appropriate lighting — Position the computer screen to avoid glare, particularly from overhead lighting or windows.

· Correct posture

· Blinking routinely

· Frequent breaks

· Disengaging before bedtime

Vision is Important for School Success:

· 80% of everything a child learns comes through their eyes and visual system

· 6 out of 10 kids identified as problem learners have undetected vision problems

· 1 in 4 children has a vision problem that can interfere with learning and behavior

Recommended Eye Exam Frequency:

Every child should have an annual eye examination by a doctor of optometry.  A vision screening is not a comprehensive exam.   A child who can have 20/20 vision, but still have a vision problem relating to eye focusing or eye coordination. The vision skills needed for successful reading and learning are very complex. Even if a child passes a vision screening, they still need an annual eye exam.

Arkansas Optometric Association

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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