Parents who are trying to adjust to the new norm of juggling home schooling with their own work commitments and keeping locked down children entertained, should bear in mind the impact that increased screen time has on their children’s eye and hearing health.
Increased screen time
Figures show that we’ve logged an extra 5 billion hours online in March compared to previous months. With almost 80% of children aged between eight and 10 owning a smart device, it is not surprising that the amount of screen time youngsters are consuming has increased significantly in recent weeks while confined to their homes - one study shows some children are spending as much as six hours a day on devices.
Regular screen breaks
Specsavers is advising parents to encourage their children to take regular screen breaks and control the volume levels of devices that the children are using.
Kerril Hickey, director and optometrist at Specsavers says: ‘Being cooped up indoors, it’s understandable that children might find themselves spending much of their day online. While it’s important that they keep occupied, if there are not enough breaks from screens, or if the sound volume goes unchecked, it could be damaging to their hearing and sight.
‘Eyes can often become strained when we focus on screens, especially if they are a smaller laptop, tablet or smart device.Eye strain symptoms to look out for include eye discomfort, headaches, sore or tired eyes, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light.’
The 20:20:20 rule
To combat these common eye concerns, Specsavers advises parents to encourage their children to have regular breaks and follow the 20:20:20 rule, getting them to look up from their screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, as this helps to relax the eye muscles.
Check volume levels on devices
If you find your child’s TV or music consumption increasing, keep the volume at a safe level, especially if they use headphones.
Orla Walsh, Specsavers Audiologist, says: ‘For parents whose children are possibly spending more time than usual gaming or listening to music with the volume up full blast, remind them to take regular breaks and turn down the noise. Children (and adults) should listen at less than half the maximum volume for no more than half an hour of time. Exceeding this could eventually result in hearing loss or tinnitus.’