PARENTS who are trying to adjust to the new norm of juggling home schooling with their own work commitments and keeping locked down children entertained, should bear in mind the impact that increased screen time has on their children’s eye and hearing health.
Figures show that we’ve logged an extra 5 billion hours online in March compared to previous months. With more than half of seven-year-olds with their own tablet and three quarters of 12-year-olds in possession of a smartphone, it is not surprising that the amount of screen time youngsters are consuming has increased significantly in recent weeks - one study shows some children are spending as much as six hours a day on devices.
Specsavers Clinical Services Director, Giles Edmonds, says: ‘Being cooped up indoors, it’s understandable that children might find themselves spending much of their day online for home schooling, playing computer games, watching TV and listening to music.
‘While it’s important that they keep occupied, if there are not enough breaks from screens, or if the sound volume goes unchecked, it could be damaging to their hearing and sight.’
Specsavers has the following advice to help protect children’s senses during lockdown:
Take regular screen breaks
‘Eyes are not designed to be fixated on a single object for a long period of time so can often become strained when we focus on screens, especially if they are a smaller laptop, tablet or smart device.
‘While eye strain is uncomfortable, it is not usually serious, and tends to ease once you rest your eyes. Symptoms include eye discomfort, headaches, sore or tired eyes, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light.’
Mr Edmonds advises parents to encourage their children to have regular breaks and follow the 20:20:20 rule, getting them to look up from their screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, as this helps relax the eye muscles.
If you find your child’s TV or music consumption increasing, keep the volume at a safe level, especially if they use headphones.
Gordon Harrison, Specsavers’ Chief Audiologist, says: ‘For parents whose children are possibly spending more time than usual gaming or listening to music with the volume up full blast, remind them to take regular breaks and turn down the noise. The same applies to noisy toys.
‘When we listen to music or watch videos while wearing headphones it is easy to let the volume creep up. But the fact is, we should listen at less than half the maximum volume for no more than half an hour of time. Exceeding this could eventually result in hearing loss or tinnitus.’
Home school help
For parents looking for inspiration while home schooling, Specsavers has created a children’s activity hub on its website. The hub includes Key Stage 1 and 2 educational activities, as well as a free activity pack. It is full of fun facts, colouring activities and challenges to keep young minds occupied such as how to draw eyes. make a pinhole camera, spot the difference and optical illusions. For more information visit www.specsavers.co.uk