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Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Parenting Tip #3


Limit Screen Time

Have you noticed how much time your child’s eyes are glued to the TV, computer, tablet or smart phone? Maybe you’ve experienced calling them over and over until you eventually pry them away from ‘the screen’. While these devices provide major benefits, too much or prolonged continuous use can be harmful.

In today’s digitally connected world, we can sometimes become so engrossed in using our devices that we don’t realise how much time has elapsed. Two consecutive hours of watching a screen can cause eyestrain and fatigue.

A recent study from South Korea identified a link between excessive smartphone use and becoming cross-eyed.

When watching a screen for a prolonged period or staring too close at a screen, we may experience:

  • dry eyes
  • blurry vision
  • trouble focusing
  • headaches
  • neck and back pain

Digital Eyestrain is the term used to describe these symptoms resulting from electronic device usage.

Our devices have become so convenient that it is now used in every aspect of our lives. From the minute we walk up till seconds before we fall asleep in the bedroom. The latter however, watching screens too much just before bedtime, has been proven to negatively affect our sleep. As screens emit blue light, which affects the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, it disrupts our circadian rhythms, which basically means, we don’t get a proper night’s sleep.

Chances are if you’re using a computer, smartphone or watching TV then you’re most likely in a sitting position. Sitting too much has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes. It has been suggested, for every half hour of screen time or sitting take a ten minute break to walk, stretch and look at something far away. This helps the body by improving blood circulation, exercising the muscles and eyes thus encouraging good health.

Parents should discuss these issues with their kids to come up with ways that will promote healthy habits to reduce the risks of too much screen time.

Here are some suggestions that parents can use:

  1. Establish rules. Collaborate with your kids for when they can use the devices and for how long. 
  2. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and look at something 20 feet away. This is called the “20-20-20 rule” by many eye care providers. It helps relax the muscles of the eyes.
  3. Turn off screens before bedtime. Let your kids avoid watching screens at least one hour before bedtime to help them feel fully rested.
  4. Make a tech-free area. Create a space in your home that is free from the distractions of a screen. For example, you can set the dining table to be tech-free during dinner.
  5. Set time for physical activities. Encourage your kids to play sports, ride bikes, draw, play board games or even tag and hide and seek.
  6. Take a 10 minutes break every 30 minutes of sitting. This helps your kids form healthy habits.



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