The Pandemic Isn’t Good for Your Eyeballs
Screen eyes are tired eyes. So what to do about it?
I’d never thought of my childrens’ six underage eyeballs as “plump” until Manoush Zomorodi prompted me to in her recent piece about the tricky ways quarantine behaviors are impacting eyesight. Her description conjured a creepy haunted house moment from elementary school days — my hand plunged into a bowl of perfectly round peeled grapes.
All This Quarantine Screen Time May Be Ruining Your Eyesight
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The image is apt. By design, eyeballs are round and — as Robert Roy Britt reports for Elemental — nearsighted ones (like mine) are elongated. Can’t say I love the thought of carrying around misshapen eyeballs in my skull, but then again what human body part doesn’t morph as its functionality shifts or diminishes?
The question Zomorodi (who by the way hosts the TED Radio Hour when she isn’t reflecting on eyeballs) raises is what can we do to keep our kids’ eyesight from rapidly dwindling, given all the givens of late: Zoom school, social distancing, and the reign of screens?
A few things, it turns out.
Getting kids (and ourselves) outside is crucial. My favorite way to do that is to hike and run in a nearby forest — taking Minecraft with us in conversation only. I often reflect on the way my (screen-taxed) eyes feel before we hit the trail and how they feel after. The difference is remarkable — as is the dopamine boost that sunlight offers the brain.
There is also strong value in limiting the amount of homework kids are tasked with and screen time they are permitted (again: this goes for parents too). As Dana Smith writes for Elemental, “Numerous studies have shown that the more time kids spend on ‘near work,’ such as reading, doing homework, using a computer, or playing video games, the greater their likelihood of developing myopia.” Though I’m not convinced that blue light glasses deliver their promised benefit, I’m unfazed if my kids want to sport them in their near work hours (which they do; trending accessories are fun).
And of course, sleep also goes a long way in ensuring kids’ bodies are firing as they need to be — especially these days. Given that brains young and old are managing more than their fair share and tired eyes struggle to function, sleep has maybe never mattered more for kids working to make sense of distance learning.
Of course, I also know myopia is an ever-present possibility — impacting more than 40% of Americans. Because it runs in families, I also know my kids’ chances of landing in the world of corrective vision are thus greater.
Nevertheless, fighting the good fight to guarantee they (and their eyeballs) are as rested and sunlit as possible is something I’m more than happy to do. Maybe, just maybe, it will mean they keep their perfectly shaped peeled grapes intact for a wee bit longer.