Is Screen Time Hurting Your Child's Eyes?-Simple Tips to Avoid Eye Strain From A Pediatrician

Do you remember when your mom or grandma told you not to sit so close to the TV set or you could become cross-eyed, or even worse, go blind from watching too much television? Well, guess what? That wasn’t entirely true but they were on to something. Myopia or nearsightedness (meaning a child has difficulty seeing objects in the distance) has nearly doubled to 42% over the last 50 years. A study in Ophthalmology provides evidence that the increase is partly to do with close-up activities involving using screens, but also due to traditional reading books.

Myopia or nearsightedness (meaning a child has difficulty seeing objects in the distance) has nearly doubled to 42% over the last 50 years.

This makes sense considering how much time kids spend behind screens today. As a pediatrician and a mom for over two decades, I have witnessed the daily use of digital devices for children of all ages increase exponentially — from watching movies and TV shows — to playing games, chatting, and even as an educational tool in schools. And parents increasingly use digital devices to keep their children quiet when out to dinner, to soothe when upset, and sometimes as a reward for good behavior. In short, screen time is ubiquitous, portable, and easily accessible at home, at school and while on the go.

Much more research needs to be done in this area about why nearsightedness is on the rise but spending more time in nature playing outdoors, particularly for young children, can actually slow the progression of nearsightedness — just another reason to put down the digital devices and get active. Currently, what we do know for sure is that using computers, phones and tablets can cause digital eye strain, even in kids.

…spending more time in nature playing outdoors, particularly for young children, can actually slow the progression of nearsightedness.

What is digital eye strain?

Digital eye strain is a condition that arises from too much up-close eye use. Your child may complain of blurry vision, dry eyes, or a burning sensation. These symptoms can occur with intense focusing and repeated scrolling on a device which makes the eyes dry out from decreased blinking. In addition, overuse can lead to headaches, neck pain, and stress. I even see kids who get nauseous and dizzy from too much screen time. The symptoms can be daily, persistent and painful.

The good news is there are some pretty simple solutions. Here are the tips I give to kids and parents to help avoid eye strain and promote good eye health.

Dr. Jen’s 10 tips to prevent eye strain in kids:

1.     Follow the 20–20–20 rule. Make sure your child takes screen time breaks at least every 20 minutes. Stop, look up and out at an object 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This will rest your eyes, increase blinking and decrease eye strain. In any case, remind your child to blink if they have been on a device for an extended period of time.

2.   Avoid using digital devices in bright light or outside. Glare can also cause eye strain.

3.    Monitor and limit total daily screen time. The easiest way to do this is to use a parental control app. I like Qustodio.

4.   Put away devices during meals and power off devices at least an hour before bed time.

5.    The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screens before age 18 months as education and learning is better developed through creative, hands-on physical play, and interacting with caregivers. For toddlers, watch screens together, and limit to about one hour a day of high quality programming.

6.   If the air in your home is very dry, consider using a cool mist humidifier in the room which will keep mucus membranes like eyes, nose, and mouth from feeling dry.

7.    Prioritize outdoor play whenever possible. Walk the dog, play catch, watch the clouds go by.

8.   Read books in paper form instead of digital format.

9.   Make sure that digital media does not take the place of getting adequate sleep, exercise, nutrition, and quality family time.

10.  And last but not least, make sure to have children keep handheld devices between 18–24 inches away (45–60 cm) rather than right under their noses. See, Mom was right. :)

repost from Qustodio- digital safety and wellbeing for parents, where I am a brand ambassador / parenting and pediatric expert.

Does your child complain of eye problems when using digital devices? Leave me a comment below and let me know if any of these tips helped your family with their daily media diets.

Healthy Hearts-5 Important Habits for Kids

                                                                 Heart Health in Kids


I was inspired to write this as February is American Heart Month to remind everyone that heart health really starts in childhood to avoid cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity and diabetes. Kids today have developed so many bad health habits that they are facing heart attacks in their 30s. Many experts predict they will be the first generation to have a lower life expectancy than their parents.  But it doesn’t need to be this way. Parents like you have a great influence over your kid’s habits. By modeling the behaviors as well as instilling positive habits, you can make a huge different in your child’s health. It’s all about establishing good habits and breaking the bad ones early on.  Our habits from childhood continue into our adult lives and can have a huge impact on our overall health more so than just our genetics.  So let’s not wait, here are some tips to improve heart health as well as avoid other chronic diseases.



Move it- Daily exercise is a must. For kids at least an hour a day of heart pumping movement. Childhood is a great time to try out different activities and sports, whether team or solo to find a good fit. For kids rotating activities and sports is preferable to avoid over use injuries in growing bones, joints ligaments and muscles. The idea is those kids that are active in childhood will continue to seek out physical fitness as adults. I was into dance and gymnastics as a child but now bicycling, and pilates are more my speed. It doesn’t really matter what activity you do, as long as you get your muscles fired up, strengthening, improving balance and get your heart rate up -to help combat chronic diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease and improve mood. Remember family activities like walking the dog, raking leaves, and free play at the playground all count too!

More Plants – Eating a diet that is predominately plant based (fruits, veggies, whole grains) and less emphasis on protein from meat  is a great way to keep healthy . It provides loads of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as lots of fiber to keep you full and regulate your sugar levels. Parents are always concerned about kids getting enough protein but in general, kids get more than even necessary on a daily basis whether it be meat, eggs, dairy, poultry, fish)  Opt for smaller portions and instead  pile on the fruits and veggies. Make those side dishes the main event! In addition limit cured, smoked and fried foods and opt for kids getting used to steamed, baked and sautéed foods.

Ditch Desserts- A common error with kids is too start a habit that a meal ends with dessert. Forget the sweets after dinner, you should end feeling adequate and full from the food on your plate.  If hungry a few hours later, first drink a glass of water or even milk. If need be give a snack that’s healthy and avoid the highly processed, sugary laden snacks. Save those for more special occasions rather than daily treats.  Another tip is portion control. I have an ice cream loving family so trade off between frozen fruit treats and ice cream and in addition portion control is key to feeling satisfied and avoiding binge eating from deprivation.  Serve a small single cupful of ice cream rather than ordering a large 2-3 scoops. Your kids will still be happy😊

Chat with Your Child- Though it may seem like your kid tunes you out or doesn’t want to hear what you have to say, start early and keep talking about dangers and risky behaviors of smoking. Kids who’s parents talk about drugs and alcohol are 42 percent less likely to use substances than those whose parents don’t. And I know as a pediatrician its not enough to just ask about cigarette use,  you must discuss E-cigarettes which now are all the rage and extremely addictive. The most common brand is JUUL that comes in enticing fruity flavors, and each one pod contains as much nicotine as a full pack of cigarettes! I am seeing teens who are using and can’t stop- they quickly become jittery, develop headaches, anxiety and nervousness, diarrhea and difficulty concentrating.  The other chemical carcinogens as well as nicotine are dangerous to the developing brain long term. And it appears those kids that start off with e-cigarette use “just for fun” end up using regular tobacco cigarettes at a much higher rate than kids who do not vape. Let your kids learn the facts from you and help them stay healthy now and avoid heart disease and lung cancer later on.

Preventive Care Visits-  Show your kids you care about their health and your own. Make sure to schedule family annual physical exams with your physicians and stay up to date on immunizations, routine lab tests and physical examinations to ensure your health is on track. Prevention is key to avoiding chronic disease. Its also a great time to get specific advice from your doctor if you have a concern or there is a family history of a certain disease. Partnering with your family doctor or pediatrician, asking questions and being a role model will help your kids stay connected to the health system as they become young adults and in charge of their health.  Remember starting them down the right path with good health habits can make all the difference now and into their future.