MADISON, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — As distance learning becomes the new normal, much of the school day has shifted to the screen, but is all that screen time safe for your kids?
Like many parents, Jamie Nicotra, of Madison, New Jersey, sets screen time rules for her kids.READ MORE: Foo Fighters Set To Rock MSG In First Full-Capacity Show In New York City Since COVID-19 Restrictions Lifted
But those rules basically went out the window when the coronavirus forced families to stay at home.
“Now with this remote learning, the only kind of socialization that they really are allowed to do is on the screens,” said Nicotra in an interview with CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez. “Whether it’s a video game or another Zoom chat with their friends at lunch, so it’s very, very difficult balancing.”
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Spending hours in front of a screen, much of it required for school, has taken a painful toll on the Nicotra children.
Seven-year-old Henry and 9-year-old Georgiana are now suffering from painful headaches.
“It feels like a donkey is kicking your head because it hurts,” Georgiana Nicotra said. “My eyes start to go somewhere else, start to get blurry. I try to take my glasses off, but it doesn’t really help.”
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While at home with her family, pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Erin Walsh says she’s heard from many parents who say their kids are experiencing the same issues now that they’re exceeding the 1-2 hours of screen time that is recommended for their age group.READ MORE: Driver Wanted After Jeep Plows Into Family On Bronx Sidewalk; 'Car Sped Up To Hit Us,' Witness Says
“A lot of moms are concerned because, especially in the teenage group or adolescence that they are developing headaches,” Walsh said. “There can be significant eye strain or myopia, which is nearsightedness progression.”
Walsh says she doesn’t advocate against screen filters and blue-light glasses advertised to help with eye strain, but she says at this time, they haven’t really shown any benefit.
She says the best advice is follow the 20, 20, 20 rule. Take a break after 20 minutes of screen time and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This allows eyes to relax.
“We should as ophthalmologists advocate to our teachers to allow for breaks,” Walsh said.
Nicotra is now arranging her son’s work to spread out screen time.
“OK, a handwriting assignment then a screen time assignment, so it’s not all jumbled together,” said Nictora.
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Walsh also says studies show indirect sunlight is really good for your eye health, so if you can, head outside and give your eyes a break.