HMC experts help parents reduce the effects of screen time on children

Doha: As children spend more time in front of computer screens, tablets, and TVs, occupational therapy experts at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) are offering parents advice and strategies to reduce the long-term harm this can bring.

The occupational therapy profession deals with healthy engagement in everyday life and Sultan Salim Hammam Al Abdulla heads the department at the HMC.

Research has shown that excessive use of digital devices can potentially lead to a variety of problems including eye strain, retinal damage, myopia, sleep disorders, musculoskeletal problems, and behavioral problems.

The American Optometric Association defines digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, as a set of visual and ocular symptoms that result from prolonged use of digital electronic devices.

Dr. Brightlin Nithis, of the occupational therapy department, said COVID-19 has seen children increasingly exposed to digital devices such as laptops, notebooks and smartphones, resulting in an unprecedented increase in children’s screen time.

“Screen use can lead children to adopt different accommodative strategies, such as squinting their eyes to focus more, or holding back the blinking for long periods of time to look at the visual information. We normally blink up to 17-26 times per minute. However, this could be reduced by up to 3.6-11.6 blinks per minute while using the computer, causing eye strain, ”he explained.

“Squinting is more common when using a computer to improve concentration and control glare. This increases the tension in the eye muscles and can cause eye pain and tired eyes. ”

The occupation of occupational therapist deals with healthy engagement in everyday life. At HMC, occupational therapy works across the company.

Dr. Nithis said optimally, eyes should rest from the screen frequently during computer use and a 15-minute break should be required every two hours of continuous computer use.

“The safety distance for the computer screen is between 45 cm and 70 cm from the eyes. In addition, the computer screen should be angled 15 to 20 degrees below eye level, measured from the center of the screen, ”he said.

“If smartphone screens are used, the distance should be more than 40 cm.”

Al Abdulla also advises that children should follow the 20-20-20 rule when using digital screens. That is, every 20 minutes you look at something up to 6 meters away for 20 seconds.

The sitting posture when using digital screens is also important to prevent the development of musculoskeletal complaints such as back or neck pain. Therefore, chairs should be comfortably upholstered and adapt to the body.

The chair height should be adjusted so that the feet are flat on the floor. The arms should be adjusted to provide support while typing.

If you have to write on a notebook when attending online courses, the notebook should be approximately the same distance from the screen.

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