COVID-19: The impact of school from home on your child’s vision and eye health

Kids across the country have started distance learning due to COVID-19. Many concerned parents have asked about the impact of more screen time and less outdoor time on their child. Parents know that outdoor time is good for kids–studies show outdoor movement helps in many areas of childhood development. We know that more outdoor time can have a protective effect on your child’s vision as well. Studies show more outdoor time can delay or help prevent the onset of myopia (blurry distance vision). This is important not only for your child’s vision, but also their eye health. Higher myopia increases their lifetime risk of serious eye diseases such as retinal disease and glaucoma.

Outdoor time & screen time

While numerous studies show outdoor time can delay or even prevent the development of myopia in kids, the exact mechanism is unknown. Hypothesis range from kids spending more time outdoors spend less time on screens, to an impact from sunlight and Vitamin D. Given 50% of the world is projected to be myopic by 2050, this is an area of ongoing research. Screen time is another area being studied to better understand the impact of electronic devices on the developing eye. Many studies are starting to show that more close up work, like time on devices, may also contribute to childhood myopia. So parents are right to be concerned about this move to distance learning which leads to more screen time and less outdoor time.

What can you do now?

The COVID-19 pandemic is something you can’t control. Schools will be closed for weeks, if not months. What you can do now is schedule in outdoor time every day for your child. They need the break (and so do you!), and the time outside can be helpful for their vision and eye health. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends frequent breaks from screen time and has some tips to help parents cope with this new situation, including getting kids outside. Ideally setup your child’s school work area in a well lit room with a not of natural light.

If your child does become myopic, new treatments can slow or even stop the progression of myopia. Early intervention is key, as these treatments are most effective when started early. Our Myopia Resource Center keeps up with the latest information about myopia, and use our Make An Appointment feature to find a Treehouse Eyes provider in your area.