Digital devices put undue stress on your eyes
Ryan Stelter/ Camrose Canadian Dr. Monzer Al-Bekai says parents need to be aware of the eye strain their children undergo due to their digital devices.
Digital eye strain is a growing concern in a technological world.
A survey conducted by the Alberta Association of Optometrists revealed that 59 per cent of Alberta parents do not encourage their children to take steps to reduce the impact on their eyes during or after using digital devices.
“You would think more people should know this or be aware of this,” said Dr. Monzer Al-Bekai from Camrose. “It’s one of those things that are really easily treatable, take frequent breaks, remember to blink, and get a blue blocking coating on your glasses.”
Al-Bekai recommends people to follow the 20-20-20 method, which is to look 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This allows your eyes to get a break from constantly looking at blue light.
“Every 20 minutes you want to take a quick break, look out a window at something 20 feet away or just close your eyes for 20 seconds,” Al-Bekai said. “Any time you’re doing any type of computer work you really want to be taking a break every 20 minutes.”
The survey included 506 Albertans with children aged 18 and under. According to parents, Alberta children spend an average of more than five hours a day using digital devices at home and school. Teenagers spend an average of almost eight hours a day using digital devices at home and school.
Forty-one per cent of toddlers, 76 per cent of elementary school aged children, and 96 per cent of teenagers own at least one digital device.
Digitial eye strain is caused by a number of things, including staring at close-up objects for extended periods of time and exposure to blue light emitted by things like iPhones and iPads.
“Blue light has been linked to suppressing melatonin release,” Al-Bekai said. “Blue light has been known to reduce pupillary function, so bright lights cause the pupil to constrict, dim light it expands, but high energy blue light actually disrupts that, so you’re struggling a bit when you’re on the computer. Blue light has also been linked to eye diseases like age related macular degeneration.”
The symptoms of digital eye strain are signs people need to be aware of.
“Dry eyes, can cause double vision, can cause fatigue, strain, headaches can cause a whole bunch of other things that people just don’t associate with it,” Al-Bekai said.
Of course, not getting the proper amount of sleep can cause a host of other problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Al-Bekai says if you’re going to use your phone before you go to bed, is to use the feature available on iPhones and Androids that switch the colours on your screen to warmer colours, reducing eye strain.
Al-Bekai has been an optometrist for the past 13 years, and has seen digital eye strain increase, especially in kids.
“You did have issues with [digital eye strain] with executives, with secretaries, with engineers, people who actually stayed on the computer,” he said.
Digital eye strain can cause problems at school for a lot of kids as well. If a kid’s eyes are tired and they can’t continue working, teachers might see it as something else, Al-Bekai said.
Al-Bekai recommends that kids should not be on their screens for more than two hours at a time. With the rapidly changing learning environment in classrooms today, that will prove to be tough, but education on the issue is key.
“If you tell one teacher, that one teacher can tell 30 parents so it’s a lot easier, but I don’t see how we can change the way education has moved,” Al-Bekai said. “Just the technology is there, and it’s very, very effective. So, educating people will allow them to make slight changes to the colour profiles of the programs that we use.”