Children are spending more time in front of screens than ever before. Between online learning, socializing with friends, playing games and watching videos, this can lead to upwards of 8 hours of screen time a day. As a result, many children are experiencing headaches.
Dr. Marc DiSabella, a neurologist at Children’s National Hospital, says he’s seen a spike in complaints about headaches since the school year began. To learn more about the possible connection between headaches and online learning, he and his colleagues sent a survey to all patients seen in Children’s National clinics throughout the DC-Maryland-Virginia area. Although they’ll be gathering more data in the coming months, they found these results based on the first 36 responses:
- 44% are using screens more than 6 hours a day
- 42% have a constant headache that never goes away, compared to 18% pre-pandemic
- 41% had worsening of headaches since the pandemic began
- 38% of feel more stressed since the pandemic began
- 47% prefer in person schooling to virtual learning
- 42% feel screens are making their headaches worse
- 58% say they sometimes or very often need to take screen breaks due to worsening headaches
Eliminating screen-induced headaches
If your child is experiencing screen-induced headaches, try doing the following to help.
- Print out homework. Use paper when possible to limit time in front of computer.
- Take frequent screen breaks. Try following the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes take a 20 second break and look 20 feet away or beyond.
- Skip the blue light filtering glasses. There’s no evidence that they protect the eyes.
- Structure your child’s day. A lack of structure is often tied to headaches and pain. Keep sleep schedules, exercise and screen time consistent.
- Reduce stress. Stress often causes headaches. Help your child reduce stress by encouraging them to exercise and practice mindfulness.
- Drink water! Dehydration can cause headaches so make sure your child has a water bottle nearby when they’re online.