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Five Simple Tips to Protect Your Child’s Vision and Fitness During Quarantine

More time at home can strain young eyes and growing bodies.

DALLAS, TX (April 23, 2020) – With home schooling the new norm for many weeks now, children are spending more and more time on digital devices and, in some cases, less time moving. This combination can be challenging on their eyes and growing bodies. The Vision Impact Institute and The Cooper Institute, as part of an ongoing collaboration, have teamed up to bring parents a few easy tips to incorporate into a child’s day to keep them healthy and successful in the classroom and on the field, both now and in the future.

Take a break from digital devices or other near work.

Engaging in near-vision work, whether on a screeDRAFT  n or in a book, can be taxing on a child’s eyes. The digital learning environment is also different from the classroom where children have several places to focus their attention and vision. During a normal school day, looking up at a board for a few minutes gives the eyes a break from constant near-focus. At home intentionally building in eye breaks is critical.

Research aligns with this advice. A recent research review found that more time spent on near work activities was associated with higher rates of myopia (nearsightedness). The American Optometric Association recommends the 20/20/20 rule: Look away from the screen every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

Ensure the child maintains an appropriate distance from screens.

When using screens, it’s important to think about how much distance is between the child and the screen. Some experts suggest positioning device screens based on the 1/2/10 rule: mobile phones ideally at one foot, desktop devices and laptops at two feet, and roughly 10 feet for TV screens,

depending on the size of the screen. Adjusting font sizes on screens will also help reduce eye strain and help a child maintain an appropriate distance.

Designate a “sleep time” for screens.

Most experts recommend between 5:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. is a good time to turn off all screens. Blue light exposure can affect sleep-wake patterns, and exposure late in the evening can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Good sleep is essential for healthy immune systems.

Encourage movement

Incorporating physical activity during a child’s day is beneficial for whole-child health. This is especially important when children don’t have access to regular physical activity like they do at school. While the outdoors may be off-limits for many, making the most of the indoors is perfectly fine. If you do have access to being outside all the better. Research suggests that outdoor activity is not only helpful for a child’s physical well-being, but it can also slow the progression of myopia in children.

Create a family media plan

Too much screen time should be a concern for everyone in the family, including the adults. There are different recommendations for different ages. Use the Media Use Plan Calculator to figure out how much screen time is appropriate for each member of your family and help protect everyone’s vision.

“Maintaining a healthy balance between screen time and exercise will benefit both our vision and general health long after this pandemic threat is over,” says Dr. Benjamin Willis, Director of Epidemiology at The Cooper Institute and a board-certified ophthalmologist. “It is clear that too much of a good thing may not be great for our eyes or general health.”