What is Myopia? Can Kids Get Myopia from Digital Eyestrain?

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What is Myopia, and can kids get it from their devices?

During the pandemic, many students worldwide are spending far more time participating in virtual school. While virtual school allows our kids to continue to learn from the safety of their homes, it does raise concern for digital eyestrain and the development of myopia. Digital eye strain is more common when we are looking at a computer screen several hours a day. Unfortunately, many of us look at digital screens all day, and we are at risk of developing computer vision syndrome or digital eye strain.


What is myopia?

Myopia is a vision condition that hinders you from seeing objects clearly unless they are close to you. Some people call this being ‘near-sighted.’ In other words, you can see things close up but cannot see things farther away. People with myopia (me included!) can see objects near them, but objects farther away are blurry. It occurs when the shape of the eye causes light rays to bend (or ‘refract’) incorrectly, leading to the focusing of images we see in front of the retina instead of on your retina. The condition results in a mismatch between the eye focusing power and the eyeball length, creating blurry images.

Research shows that severe myopia can lead to other eye problems such as retinal detachment and glaucoma. However, the risks can be prevented.

With the increased time in virtual school and time on a computer screen or other digital device, many kids have developed digital eye strain. You can help your kid practice good eye habits to prevent the risks of myopia. Although wearing glasses prescribed for computer screen use can reduce the risk of myopia, other lifestyle habits can lead to a healthy eye.


Here are tips to help your kid prevent digital eye strain and improve eyestrain from the computer screen.


Encourage your kids to spend time outdoors away from digital screens.

With virtual learning, your kid can engage in lessons from any place. However, many prefer staying indoors most of the time. Do you know that going outdoor is vital in enhancing the performance of your kids’ eyes? The outdoor light regulates dopamine, a hormone in the retina that controls the growth of the eye. Thus, it is good to encourage your kids to have more outdoor time. I also encourage kids’ exercise outside too! The more time away from a computer screen and digital devices, the better!


Try to use a large computer screen to prevent computer vision syndrome.

The computer screen size will help determine the health of your child’s eyes and prevent digital eye strain. On the other hand, a small computer screen will force your kid’s eyes to strain to focus. That’s why it is good to invest in a big laptop or a computer instead of using a phone or a tablet when possible. When it comes to screen positioning, encourage your kid to keep the screen at least 2 feet away from their face.


Check the screen lighting and reduce glare to prevent digital eye strain.

Bright lighting is the leading cause of digital eyestrain. It leads to eye strain, making it difficult for your kids to see objects on the screen. Thus, it is good to lower the brightness of the computer or digital screen to reduce the reflection. Also, it is good to turn off some overhead lights such as fluorescent when using the computer. You can consider an adjustable desk light if you must use a lighting source.


Take eye breaks

Staring too much on a digital device can contribute to dry eyes and increase the risk of digital eye strain. But blinking produces tears that moisten and refreshes the eyes. Do you know that taking breaks and moving your eyes around can help create tears and reduce tension in the muscles behind the eyes? Looking around every 20 minutes can help in eyestrain relief. So put down the computer or digital screen and take an eye break!


Eyestrain relief from food?

Foods with omega-3 fatty acids such as fish oil help relieve digital eye strain and help prevent computer vision syndrome. Chat with your healthcare provider to review your child’s diet to see if they suggest a supplement if your child has digital eye strain from excessive computer or digital screen use.

Please review your child’s eye health with their eye-care provider or optometrist.

It is good to have regular eye exams to assess for eye conditions such as myopia. In addition, if your child experiences headaches, irritated eyes, dry eyes, or pain in the eyes, it is good to schedule an eye exam with your clinician.


FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions


What is myopia?

Myopia is an eye condition that prevents you from seeing objects clearly unless they are close. It is otherwise known as being ‘near-sighted.’ myopia is caused by a mismatch between the focusing power of the eye and the shape of the eye, as light rays bend incorrectly, leading to images being focused in front of the retina instead of on the retina, creating blurry images. In addition, increased use of digital devices can lead to digital eye strain. This increases the risk of developing myopia.


How do I prevent digital eyestrain from virtual school?

It is advisable to take eye breaks from digital devices every 20 min to look around the room and avoid staring at the screen all day. Getting some fresh air and kids’ exercise outside can help provide eyestrain relief. Decrease brightness and glare on the screen and use the largest screen you can to minimize digital eye strain.


What foods can help with eyestrain relief?

Ensure your child has enough Omega-3 fatty acids in their diet, or consider an omega-3 supplement. Review your child’s diet with your healthcare provider.


Is blue light bad for my eyes? Can it cause digital eye strain?

Blue light emitted from digital devices is linked to problems like blurred vision, eye strain, blurred distance vision, dry eye, macular degeneration, and cataracts. Some people have sleep issues if they have excessive blue light exposure from computer or digital screen use. It is best to minimize digital screen use in the evening, consider using a screen glare filter and ensure the blue light reducer on your digital screen device is turned on.


What are other risks to using a digital device?

Excessive use of digital screen devices include dry contact lenses, shoulder pain, visual problems such as blurry vision, eye discomfort, or computer vision syndrome. Digital eye strain is an increasingly common phenomenon noted in kids and adults using a computer or handheld device or other digital screen devices for several hours a day.

Neck and shoulder pain can be remedied by ensuring proper ergonomic form when using a digital screen and taking breaks to stretch and relax. In addition, consider decreasing your digital screen viewing. If your shoulder pain is increasing or is concerning, please discuss it with your healthcare provider. Please review with your doctor or eye care specialist if you have vision-related symptoms such as blurred vision or other visual symptoms. They can assess for signs of digital eye strain, take visual acuity measurements and determine if you should wear computer glasses or need a contact lens prescription to provide optimal vision.

Dr Dina Kulik - Kids Health

Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Written By: Dr. Dina Kulik, MD, FRCPC, PEM

Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.

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