Researchers: Future Investigations on Screen Time, Eye Health Are Warranted

Judith Lavrich, MD, and Jordan Hamburger discuss the need for more research on the impact of screen time on eye health following their study on virtual school and children's eyesight.

We may need to potentially adjust what we do on computers to alleviate eye problems, but more research is needed, said Judith Lavrich, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University and ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, and Jordan Hamburger, a fourth-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.


As more events take place online and Americans continue to age, will these scenarios put a strain on eye care down the line?

Lavrich: I don't know if it'll put a strain on eye care. But I certainly think that physicians and anybody dealing with the eyes, and opticians that are seeing people who have eye complaints or visual complaints need to be aware of this as a possibility and refer these patients for appropriate potential treatment. I mean, we did find in our study that...17% of healthy children had actually enough complaints to match a convergence insufficiency. It's a particular entity called convergence insufficiency, where the child has problems moving their eyes inward and maintain that position. And even though these were healthy children, so they've never been diagnosed with this problem, this can be treated and, with appropriate recognition and treatment, can help them have less symptoms potentially. But first, they need to get to the doctor and see if they have that problem. So yes, I think we need to make this higher recognition of it. We needed to figure out what we can do to lessen the symptomatology. Potentially, we need to adjust what we're doing on computers, making our font size bigger, or something that can reduce the symptomatology. But again, this all needs to be studied further.

Do you have any closing thoughts you'd like to share?

Hamburger: Yeah, some closing thoughts that we made a lot of inferences to a lot of different populations in a lot of different scenarios, with adults in different entertainment, with using digital technology. But it's important to note with our study, it was only done with 110 healthy children. We only were able to study after 1 day of virtual school. And we were able to see symptomatology in this population group. However, it's very, very hard to infer this into other population groups.

Lavrich: Right, exactly. It all needs to be studied before we can make definite opinions and definite solutions to the problem.

Hamburger: But we do know that 110 children experienced acute eye symptoms after their normal 1 virtual school session. And that was a very significant finding and the basis of our paper.