Is your child complaining of headaches? Too much screen time could be to blame

Is your child complaining of headaches? Too much screen time could be to blame
A child takes part in virtual learning in St. Helena Parish. (Source: WAFB)

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Remember when your mom would fuss at you for sitting too close to the television? “You’ll ruin your eyes,” she would yell. Nowadays, screens dominate a child’s day. As it turns out, your mom wasn’t that paranoid.

We’re having a lot more kids, and teenagers, and young adults coming in because of the eye-strain and eye fatigue that they’re having from this virtual learning,” said Dr. Bridgette Connorton, an optometrist at Ahcord Eye Clinic (https://visionsource-br.com/). “Unfortunately, a lot of kids are noticing that they are getting headaches, eyestrain, their eyes are getting tired by the end of the day. And their eyes are actually getting blurry, as well.”

It seems like a simple solution, but taking breaks really is the best cure for eye fatigue.

“What’s happening is when we focus up-close, we’re allowing those eye muscles to lock up,” Dr. Connorton explains. “And those eye muscles, we need to relax them, too, just like any other muscle in our body. We have to give them a break.”

But those breaks tend to push us from one device to another. So taking a break means putting down all devices - phones, iPads, televisions, etc.

“Kids may be getting frustrated because they’re having headaches when they’re on these devices. You know, they need to be studying, so it’s hard to give them the break. As long as the parents know, too, that a break doesn’t consist of maybe letting them go look at an iPad or phone in the middle of schoolwork. Just really allowing them to take a full break.”

When it comes to our screens, blue light seems to be the culprit in a variety of negative consequences caused by too much screen time. Not only is blue light drying out eyes, it’s disrupting sleep cycles, because the light is messing up melatonin levels.

“If you’re on a device to very late a night, we’re not allowing that melatonin to regulate back up. So, we’re not falling asleep as well or staying asleep as well.”

Glasses that block blue light will help reduce some of the eye-related problems. However, it’s important to remember that even if the glasses help your child experience less negative symptoms, there are not enough long term studies to show what impact long periods of screen time has on development.

In summary, there are three things you should be doing to reduce the strain:

1) Take full breaks away from the devices

2) Try using bluelight-blocking glasses.

3) Shut off the screens and close your eyes a few times a day.

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