Lockdown learning – homeschooling pack and eyestrain advice for parents

Senior optometrists are working with parents who are trying to adjust to the new norm of home schooling and keeping locked down children entertained. This has resulted in the launch of an online learning hub, where children can learn about eyes and eyesight – as well as tips to keep eyes healthy, especially with increased screen time.

Home school help

For parents looking for inspiration while home schooling, a children’s activity hub has Key Stage 1 and 2 educational activities, as well as a free activity pack (with a little education thrown in there for good measure). With content aimed at children, parents and teacher packs, the hub originated in an information pack that Specsavers optometrists use when visiting schools to teach kids how eyes work. There are eye-themed colouring templates and ‘make your own’ challenges to keep young minds occupied, including how to draw eyes, how to make a pinhole camera and building your own bird feeder.  

While keeping children entertained, the printable activity packs are also designed to help reduce screen time. Figures show that consumers have logged an extra 5 billion hours online in March compared to previous months[1]. With more than half of seven-year-olds with their own tablet and three-quarters of 12-year-olds in possession of a smartphone[2], it is not surprising that the amount of screen time youngsters are consuming has increased significantly in recent weeks[3] while confined to their homes – one study shows some children are spending as much as six hours a day on devices[4].

 Specsavers Clinical Services Director, Giles Edmonds, says: ‘Being indoors for most of the day, it’s understandable that children might find themselves spending much of their day online for home schooling, playing computer games, watching TV and watching videos.

‘While it’s important that children keep occupied, if there are not enough breaks, excessive screen time it could be damaging to their sight. Eyes are not designed to be fixated on a single object for a long period of time so can often become strained when we focus on screens, especially if they are a smaller laptop, tablet or smart device.

‘While eye strain is uncomfortable, it is not usually serious, and tends to ease once you rest your eyes. Symptoms to look out for include eye discomfort, headaches, sore or tired eyes, difficulty focusing, dry eyes, blurred or double vision, and increased sensitivity to light.’

To combat these common eye concerns, Mr Edmonds advises parents to encourage their children to have regular breaks and follow the 20:20:20 rule, getting them to look up from their screen every 20 minutes at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds, as this helps relax the eye muscles.

 ‘Also make the most of your allowed outdoor time. Research[5] shows that taking a screen break and going for a short walk allows eyes to rest and for our mind to regroup’ he concludes. 

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