How to Protect Your Child from Eye Strain

Medically reviewed by Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO · Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 18, 2021

    How to Protect Your Child from Eye Strain

    Eye strain, a condition that usually happens when we overuse our eyes, is common among adults. But, did you know that kids can experience it, too? Here are the common reasons why it happens in children and some tips on how to protect your child from eye strain.

    Child Eye Care Tips for Parents

    Eye strain, an overview

    Before we list some common reasons behind eye strain in children, let’s first define the condition.

    Eye strain results from intense use of the eyes, typically for an extended period of time. It can happen in adults, when you stare at the computer screen for too long or when you drive long distances. Eye strain can result in the following signs and symptoms:

    • Discomfort in the eyes (the eyes might feel tired or sore)
    • Burning or itching sensation
    • Dry or watery eyes
    • Increased sensitivity to light

    Besides eye-related symptoms, someone with eye strain may also have headaches and a sore neck, shoulders, or back.

    How to protect your child from eye strain

    3 Common Reasons Why Children Experience Eye Strain

    To protect your child from eye strain, you must be aware of the common reasons why it happens:

    Too much screentime

    Many experts believe that the number 1 culprit for eye strain in kids is too much screentime. On top of watching TV shows, many children now spend a significant amount of their time using gadgets to study, watch videos, and play games.

    Sunlight and room lighting

    It may not be obvious, but if your child spends too much time in the sun without eye protection, they may develop eye strain. Furthermore, when the lighting at home is not at a comfortable level, it may also hurt your kid’s eyes.

    Vision problems

    Finally, children with vision problems might use their eyes forcefully to see clearly, leading to eye strain. Examples of eye conditions that can result in eye strain are nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism.

    How to protect your child from eye strain

    To protect your kid’s eyes, consider taking the following measures:

    Limit screentime and practice the 20-20-20 rule

    As much as possible discourage the child from using gadgets, but if it cannot be helped, make sure that they are taking frequent breaks.

    Whenever your child focuses on a task that requires intense eye use, such as reading or staring at the computer screen, practice the 20-20-20 rule.

    The rule suggests that for every 20 minutes of activity, the child should take their eyes away from the task and focus on anything 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Afterward, they need to blink 20 times. This gives your child’s eyes the much-needed break.

    Some reports add an additional “2” at the end of the rule. It stands for at least 2 hours of outdoor activities. Various studies indicate that spending time outdoors not only serves as a break from screentime, but it’s also essential in a child’s eye focus. At least one study even suggests that it can reduce the risk of nearsightedness.

    Be careful with screen size and distance

    To protect your child from eye strain, make them use gadgets with larger screens such as computers and laptops. This is because small screens like that of mobile phones make the eyes work harder.

    As for positioning, you can follow the 1/2/10 rule. It means your child needs to place their phone 1 foot away from them, sit 2 feet away from their computer, and sit 10 feet away from the television.

    Effects of Screen Time on Child Brain Development

    Avoid glares on screen

    A gadget glares when it reflects something on the screen that makes it hard for you to see clearly. Too much glare can strain the eyes, so before handing the device to your child, adjust its brightness first.

    Additionally, adjust the lighting in the room. Intense light tends to produce a glare on the screen as well.

    Teach them to use sunglasses outdoors

    To protect your kid’s eyes from the harsh sun rays, have them wear sunglasses outdoors, especially when you expect that they’ll stay in the sun for a long time. A wide-brim hat or an umbrella is also helpful in protecting the eyes against the sun.

    Have their eyes checked

    And finally, to protect your child from eye strain and other vision problems set an appointment for an eye check-up.

    After your baby’s first comprehensive eye exam at 6 months, another eye check-up should follow once they reach 3 years old.

    The next eye exam happens at age 5 or 6 before they enter first grade. From age 6 to 18, they need to have an eye check-up once every 2 years or as recommended by their doctor.

    Eye check-ups help detect vision problems early on, which increases the chances of successful treatment.

    Learn more about Child Eyecare here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Medically reviewed by

    Victor Paulino, MD, DPBO

    Ophthalmology · Makati Medical Center

    Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. · Updated May 18, 2021


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