In the wake of online teaching, a common concern among parents and educationists is what is good screen time vis-a-vis bad screen time for children.
Undoubtedly, as an educational requirement, children are spending more and more of their day glued to the screen. As a side effect, the ‘good screen time’ is also extending beyond the appropriate hours—to online gaming and entertainment, commonly referred to as ‘bad screen time’. This has led to a remarkable decrease in the much-needed rest for the eyes.
It is undoubtedly a challenge, therefore, thrown at the adults of the household to handle children who are cooped up at homes, thoroughly bored—more so, when both the parents are working from home and juggling schedules.
Can we point fingers at children for indulging in bad screen time when we, as adults, are hooked on to the screen almost through the day, and night? Not really.
Let’s talk solutions:
- As parents, try to demonstrate discipline in your own schedule by incorporating a healthy regimen.
- As educationists, amid online teaching, give children breaks between sessions. During the break, give them a task that would not involve them to go back to any screen and instead, should be a physical activity.
- As kids, tell them to make a chart at home on good screen time and bad screen time, and a cheat sheet for weekends, wherein they can spend some excessive hours entertaining themselves. This chart is something that is advised for parents too.
- During online classes, teachers should discuss concerns pertaining to gaming addiction and binge-watching of shows on OTT. They should talk about the impact of screens on mental health too.
How screen time affects vision
Excessive screen time leads to dry eyes because of reduction in the tear film and that leads to tired, gritty, uncomfortable burning eyes, which increase by the end of the day and are often accompanied by headaches.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports that their nearsightedness has doubled since 1971 – and now stands at 42%.
Some Asian figures are alarming – nearly 90% of teenagers and adults are nearsighted. According to studies, there is evidence that shows that increase in indoor activities has been a major contributing factor.
Tips on how to handle this:
- Lead by example – cut down your own screen time and engage with your child. A family activity will reduce screen time for both.
- Tell the children to take frequent breaks. The 20-20-20 rule is a great help. Every 20 minutes ask the child to look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- A warm compress on the lids applied twice a day will help to express nourishing oils and make the child more comfortable.
- Washing the eyes frequently is NOT a good idea, as it flushes away the tears and ultimately, leads to a red irritable eye.
- The importance of blinking cannot be overemphasized – Blinking expresses the natural oils and is one of the things that reduces irritability during prolonged screen time.
- Blue light protective glasses are not a panacea (though they may have a protective role). Sometimes, they may lead to a false sense of security and one tends to allow the child to continue with the screen as long as the glasses are on.
- Good posture is essential, else it leads to neck strain and may early-onset spondylitis.
- Increased outdoor activity has been shown to reduce the progression of nearsightedness.
Screen time prescribed…
As per the WHO recommendations of 2019, no screen time is advisable for children below 1 year and very limited time post that.
Video chatting with children is to be discouraged until about 24 months of age.
As children get older, it gets more and more difficult to make them see things your way, so early restrictions might be a good way to start the training process.
- Dr. Navin Sakhuja, MD, DNBE, is an alumnus of Maulana Azad Medical College (1985) and the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (1991). Dr. Sakhuja is also an avid photographer and has hosted several exhibitions.