Increasing amounts of screen time are becoming a feature in our modern lives: this is especially true of children.
Using any device leads to a reduced blink rate which can be a key factor in causing dry eye syndrome. This results in eyes feeling irritated and uncomfortable.
According to renowned Canadian Occupational Therapist Victoria Proofday, extended screen use is leading to a decline in childrens’ social, emotional and academic functioning. Compared to virtual reality, everyday life can be dull and childrens’ brains can find it increasingly challenging to cope in the classroom. With computers, there is a bombardment of exciting graphics and special effects, whereas in the classroom there is mostly only human voices and adequate visual stimulation. The inability to be able to process lower levels of stimulation can leave children vulnerable to academic challenges.
Not only does spending time oudoors help to decrease the risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness), but according to Victoria, playing in an unstructed natural environment helps children to learn and practice their social skills.
A study by Oxford University of 3000 3-5 year olds discovered that the academic success of children was associated more to their home enviroment and their parents’ involvement, than to the toys and electronic devices that they possessed. Those children who had fewer toys and no electronic devices, but had parents who spent more time with them, performed better in school. The childrens’ social development was also better, suggesting that parents’ attention is more beneficial than toys or electronic devices.
Electronic devices have now become a key part of childrens’ education, and hence use is essential and virtually impossible to avoid. For adults, it would be rare to have a job that didn’t include screen use. The recommended advice is to take regular breaks, and for younger children, ideally to keep screen time to a minimum.
Using the 20-20-20 rule is beneficial for all screen time. This rule recommends that every 20 minutes one should look 20 metres away from the screen for 20 seconds. For those who use screens for extended periods eg in the office, I would also consider adding an additional 20 to the rule: doing 20 knee bends every 20 minutes to help lower any circulation risk.