Too much screen time can contribute to eye strain, which could explain why you may be seeing more and more bespectacled youngsters these days.
The US Department of Health and Human Services estimates that American children spend seven hours a day in front of electronic media. The increased use of electronic devices with screens can cause eye strain at a faster rate than that of the previous generation, experts say.
While glasses can help kids see more clearly if vision problems arise, adjusting to life with lenses isn’t always easy for kids. But parents can ease the transition by giving kids a say in the selection process and making glasses seem "normal," says Dr. Amanda Thompson, a pediatric psychologist in Washington, D.C.
Helping kids adjust
"Most children just want to fit in and not stand out from their peers," explained Thompson. "Anything that makes them feel different, including something as minor as needing to wear glasses, may impact a young child's confidence."
To help young kids adjust to wearing glasses for the first time, Dr. Thompson shares these tips for parents:
- Normalize the experience. To help your child feel less “different," make glasses seem common and normal. Read books about characters that wear glasses and point out people in their life who wear glasses (a classmate, a favorite teacher, their baseball coach).
- Let them pick their favorite frames. Give your child a sense of control over the situation by letting them try on different colors and shapes and letting them have a say in picking their favorite. Involvement in the selection process can make kids feel proud of their new accessory.
- Provide positive attention. It’s no secret that kids respond to positive attention. To harness the power of positive attention to encourage your child to keep wearing their glasses, provide specific praise such as, "I love when you wear your glasses. You look so smart!" Or, "I'm so glad you are wearing your glasses to do your homework. I'm really proud of you."
- Deal with teasing if it occurs. If your child tells you they’re being teased, Thompson says you should first praise them for letting you know. Then, calmly listen and validate their feelings. Communicate that teasing is unfair, unkind, and hurtful, and then talk about some ways to deal with teasing if it happens again. Role-playing can be a helpful practice.
Preventing digital eye strain
To mitigate the ocular impact of digital devices, The Vision Council recommends heading to a local eyewear provider to discuss your child's digital habits. Eyewear solutions may be available to prevent digital eye strain and reduce exposure to blue light emitted from screens.
Parents should also encourage their children to take frequent breaks when using technology, as well as make sure their kids aren't putting screens too close to their eyes.