6 Things to Know about Kids’ Screen Time and Vision Problems

Hispanic boy playing handheld video game on sofa

Kids are complaining of problems with eyestrain, dry eyes, blurry vision and nearsightedness, reports the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Eye doctors believe the cause relates to too much screen time and close-up work. Here are six things parents and caregivers should know.

Developmental delays 

Researchers discovered that young children who watch digital devices two to three hours daily were slower to reach necessary developmental milestones. They struggled with problem-solving, communication and motor skills. Achieving these markers prepares kids to learn in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents and caregivers limit young children to one hour of screen time daily. Doctors also encourage parents to watch alongside kids and point out colors, words and pictures to help them make visual connections. Read more about vision problems preschoolers can experience.


The number of kids diagnosed with nearsightedness (myopia) has increased worldwide. Eye doctors believe kids are spending too many hours during the day on digital devices and doing close-up work, and less time outdoors in play activities that stimulate vision development. To learn more about why kids need time outdoors read this blog.

Dry eyes 

Doctors discovered that oil glands, called meibomian, in the eyes of kids with eyestrain and dry eyes often don’t work correctly. Meibomian glands produce oil to keep eyes hydrated and healthy. Vision experts believe that kids using digital devices or doing a lot of close-up work are not blinking enough to stimulate the gland. Normally, as people age, the meibomian glands dry up and disappear. However, eye doctors have noticed an increase in the number of kids losing gland function, which can lead to blurry vision, pain, itching, burning and corneal scar tissue.

Computer eyeglasses  

Parents and caregivers may have heard that kids need prescription computer or reading glasses with blue light protection, to correct nearsightedness and eyestrain. But eye doctors say this is not the right treatment. Instead, kids need to practice the 20-20-20 rule.

20-20-20 rule  

Ophthalmologists recommend parents and caregivers help kids follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes encourage kids to look away from their digital devices, reading or homework, and look at an object 20 feet away for about 20 seconds, blinking several times.


Parents and caregivers can help kids prevent eyestrain by doing the following:

  • Encourage kids not to use digital devices outdoors or in rooms with bright lights to prevent glare on the screen that can cause eyestrain.
  • Set a timer to remind kids to practice the 20-20-20 rule.
  • When kids are reading, remind them to look away for 20 seconds every two chapters.
  • Encourage kids to hold digital devices 18 to 24 inches away from their faces.
  • Remind kids to blink frequently during screen time.

American Academy of Ophthalmology
NBC Washington

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