During the pandemic and virtual learning, kids spent several hours a day on their iPads, computers, laptops and cell phones, way more than usual on any given day. The fear is that overuse of these devices may have caused digital eye strain and other problems.

Dr. Joseph Calderone, of Better Vision NJ in Cranford, said that according to United Health Care, as a result of the pandemic, use of cellphones, laptops, TVs and computers has increased to more than 13 hours a day, thereby escalating all of the problems already associated with digital eye strain.

Calderone said the good news is that digital eye strain does not cause permanent damage. But while a person is using the computer, he or she can experience headaches, blurry vision, eye fatigue and burning, itchy, red teary eyes associated with dry eye syndrome.

All this increased electronic device use will cause more people to become uncomfortable while commuting electronically to work and school, Calderone said. But, the big problem with all this prolonged staring at screens is a decrease in blink rate.

Blinking renews the tear film. So reducing the blink rate, which happens whenever someone stares at an electronic device, allows for more evaporation of the moisture layer with all the resulting dry eye symptoms, he added.

But much can be done to ease eye strain and dry eyes. Calderone suggests keeping the screen at an arms length away from a person's face and don't make the screen any brighter than it has to be.

Practice the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look 20 feet away. He said to get up, walk around and take breaks. Sit comfortably and don't hunch over. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and when needed, use artificial tears.

Calderone said keep in mind the cell phone counts. It's an electronic device which will cause fatigue faster because it's hand-held which makes it closer to the eyes.

If someone tries all these tips but still feels discomfort, Calderone said to go see the eye doctor and get an exam. A person's eyeglasses or contact lenses may need to be adjusted. August is prime time for parents to get caught up with getting their kids proper eyeglasses and contact prescriptions.

He also said to keep in mind that excessive screen use is not always the reason a child may have vision issues.

"Although there is some data that suggests near-sightedness or myopia increases more rapidly in people who spend a lot of time on their screen and slows down in people who spend time outside," Calderone said.

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