When virtual schooling became the new norm during the COVID-19 pandemic, ophthalmologists predicted an increase in digital eye strain in children. Study results have confirmed that the increased screen time did lead to more eye strain in children, as well convergence insufficiency, in which the eyes are unable to work together when looking at objects up close.

Dry eye in children can be a symptom of eye strain, which can also include eye fatigue, blurry vision, and headaches. “It’s common among computer users, because people don’t blink nearly enough when using electronic devices,” the researchers wrote. “Studies show humans normally blink about 15 times a minute, but blink rate decreases to about five to seven times a minute while using digital devices. For most people, simply taking frequent breaks and remembering to blink resolves eye strain symptoms.”


More Than Half of Students Experienced Eye Strain

In this study, researchers surveyed 110 students, aged 10-17, before and after school. School days varied in length from 3-10 hours. All students were free of vision issues before the study. The study team found that that the more time students spent online, the more likely they were to experience eye strain and convergence insufficiency, with 57% of students experiencing eye strain and 61% showing symptoms of convergence insufficiency. Of the students experiencing convergence insufficiency, 17% were considered severe cases.

“Even healthy kids can develop eye complaints from computers and tablets,” said a study co-author. “Parents should be aware and ask kids if they are experiencing… dry eye or headache. If they are, they should be brought to an eye doctor for further evaluation.”