4 ways to prevent eye strain in kids during exam period

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Exams are here, and all the increased reading and writing means eye strain. An expert shares 4 simple ways to prevent eye strain in kids.

It is exam time again for children in Singapore.

As a child, my mother always said, “Don’t watch so much TV, it’s really bad for your eyes!”

But today, in addition to watching TV, almost every child spends many hours on their smart phones and other electronic devices while also working on test papers, revising work sheets, and reading textbooks to get ready for the year-end examinations.

This is just too much strain for your eyes.

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Exam times mean increased eye strain in kids.

Exam-time increases eye strain

Reading and writing can cause strain on the eye in many ways. The first is a constant near working distance for our eyes.

Muscles within our eyes flex to allow focusing for near work. As with any muscle in the body, continuous flexing can create repetitive stress problems. Ever have blurred vision when looking at a distance object after staring at a screen for a long time? This may be a spasm of the muscles within the eye, causing focus to “lock”, thereby creating a temporary loss of distance vision.

This can occur in children who have done hours of reading while preparing for an examination.

Ever find that your eyes have an irritated “scratchy” feeling after a long session of reading and writing? We tend to blink less when we are doing a heavy amount of reading and writing, leading to dry eyes.

So how can you as parents help your children during the exam period when a child is doing so much more reading and writing when compared to other times of the year? Here are four tips to help your child deal with eye strain.

Click on the next page to find out what the experts recommend to prevent eye strain in kids.

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Too much time spent on electronic gadgets increases eye strain in kids. During revision time, don’t include video games in the rest activities for your kids.

#1 Rest the eyes more

Always remind your child to rest after every 30 minutes of reading, writing or using the computer.

Rest refers to closing the eyes or walking away for a drink. Watching TV or reading a story book is not considered resting the eyes. It is also advisable for a child to have a short amount of outdoor play in the evenings during this examination period, this allows the eyes to focus at objects at a distance and is beneficial in resting the eyes after hours of near work.

# 2 Proper lighting

Light is really important for our eyes to focus well.

White light emitted by LED lights is brighter and better for reading, as compared to yellow light. One should adjust the intensity of the lighting, depending on the environment and time of the day. Use a table lamp for additional lighting when doing work at a desk.

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Make sure that kids study in proper lighting to minimise eye strain.

# 3 Sit up when doing reading and writing

Posture plays a part in our eye health. Sitting up to read and write at a desk allows light to fall nicely onto our reading material.

It also allows us to read at the appropriate distance. (Recommended distance is 30 to 40 cm from the reading material) Lying down to read usually causes a child to read closer to the book and also causes the reading material to appear darker.

#4 Reduce or stop other types of near work

It is necessary for children to take breaks from studying. But the common thing they do when resting is to play games on a smartphone or the tablet.

This adds to the amount of near work that the eyes are already doing and hence increases eye strain. It is advisable to restrict this type of resting activity and have them do something else that allows the eyes to see far instead.

The above tips are useful every day, even during periods when there are no examinations to prepare for. The more a child reads or writes, the greater the chance that the child will have an increase of short-sightedness.

Parents too should practise these habits while helping the child prepare for the exams. All the best! 😀

This article was written by Dr Lee Sao Bing, Medical Director, Shinagawa Eye Centre.