Children's Vision Month

Oct 2019

Winnipeg's Health and Wellness Magazine

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E A S T S T. P A U L EYECARE CENTRE 3000 Birds Hill Road, East St. Paul Call 204.663.7564 for appointments A full service professional eyecare centre serving East Winnipeg and rural East Manitoba SPECIAL SECTION A S U P P L E M E N T T O T H E W I N N I P E G F R E E P R E S S T H U R S D AY, O C T O B E R 1 0 , 2 0 1 9 A 1 3 VIEW ONLINE AT For advertising information, call: 204-697-7389 CHILDREN'S VISION MONTH It's clear to see that screen time can have a big impact on children's vision. That's why Doctor of Optometry Carmen Recksiedler of Visual Eyes Optometry now includes questions about screen time in her routine questionnaire for every child's eye exam. Screen time is increasing for all age groups, but the biggest problem is for kids under five since it's such a crucial time for eye and brain development. That's why the experts recommend no screen time for wee ones aged two and under. For those aged three to five, screen time should be limited to a maximum of one hour per day. "It's one of the peak times for brain growth, and what happens during this time frame can have lifelong consequences," Recksiedler said. "These consequences could be visual, and they could also be developmental, cognitive and/or social, or impact physical and mental health." Visually, short-term impacts include issues like computer vision syndrome, which causes vision to become blurred and eyes to become dry and red. "The symptoms can be the same for kids as for adults. With too much screen time, you look up and your vision is blurry. Your eyes might hurt or burn. You feel uncomfortable and you might get a headache. That's a temporary thing, but if we're doing that on a daily basis, then it becomes a chronic problem," Recksiedler said. This short-term blurred vision arises from the lens inside our eye changing shape to focus at a near object or screen. Similar to a muscle, if we engage it for a prolonged period of time it fatigues, becomes painful and function becomes impaired. "For some people, the long-term visual consequence is myopia, which is near- sightedness." Statistics show that near-sightedness has nearly doubled since the '70s. "If both your parents are near-sighted, there's a really good chance you'll be near-sighted. But we can reduce that risk during the developmental stage between birth and age five by not looking at things up close for extended periods of time. We know that if kids are outside looking at things at a distance, that reduces the incidence of myopia. It's recommended that children spend at least 90 minutes playing outdoors each day." In addition, parents should actively interact with children during screen time, particularly in the three-to-five age group, to help them bridge the gap between the two-dimensional and three- dimensional worlds. Anyone using screens should also implement the "20-20-20 rule," which means that after 20 minutes of screen time, you should look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Parents should encourage kids to learn self-control around screen time and can lead by example by implementing a schedule for family screen time in defined areas of the home. For older children, there's more of a sliding scale, but one to two hours of screen time is a good guideline that will also reduce the risks of a sedentary lifestyle. At least one hour before bedtime, Recksiedler recommends turning off all screens including TVs, since they disrupt sleep cycles by suppressing the natural production of melatonin. As another way to reduce screen use, she suggests switching to music for background noise. This is particularly important for youngsters aged two and under, since the distraction of screens can impact their development. "There are visual consequences of screen time, but it goes beyond that," she said. "We're all overdoing it, but the more we acknowledge it as a society, the easier it will be to find balance again." SCREEN TIME IMPACTS CHILDREN'S VISION BY JENNIFER MCFEE Doctor of Optometry Carmen Recksiedler of Visual Eyes Optometry says the increase in screen time is a big problem for kids under five as that's a crucial time for eye and brain development. Photo by David Lipnowski Screen time is increasing for all age groups, but the biggest problem is for kids under five since it's such a crucial time for eye and brain development. Growing up with sight loss can bring practical, emotional and social challenges. CNIB's children and youth programs can help with navigating these developmental stages. Through immersive workshops, activities, family fun days and camps, children and youth programs help young people with sight loss develop confidence, independence and a sense of self-identity. To make a donation or learn more, visit or call the CNIB Helpline at 1-800-563-2642.

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