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Screen Fatigue in Kids: What it is, how to recognize the signs, and how to prevent it from happening

As an adult, you’ve likely experienced screen fatigue.

Something you may not have considered...your kids have probably experienced it too.

They can’t always verbalize the symptoms, but that doesn’t change the fact that it happens.

The pandemic has presented many challenges for families - digital eye strain from increased screen-time is one of them.

Many parents are working remotely while kids are home doing virtual school.

On top of using screens for learning, often we need to rely on them to keep our kids entertained too.

We need that extra time to work, cook, make a phone call, or even grab a shower.

Today we’re going to talk about what screen fatigue actually is, recognizing the symptoms, and how to prevent it.

What is screen fatigue?

Screen fatigue is a form of eyestrain.

Formally known as asthenopia (yep, that’s a doozy of a word!), eyestrain is often caused by long periods of time spent in front of screens.

It’s not usually serious and is most often relieved by taking a break from screens and allowing your eyes to rest.

Rarely, eyestrain can be caused by an underlying vision issue.

If you notice your child is experiencing symptoms of screen fatigue that aren’t relieved by giving screens a rest, it may be worth a call to the eye doctor.

What are the signs of screen fatigue?

The signs of screen fatigue can be difficult to spot. Sometimes we miss them because they mimic other things - poor sleep, stress, allergies, etc.

Here are some symptoms you might see if your child is experiencing screen fatigue.

  • Blurry vision
  • Double vision
  • Squinting
  • Excessive blinking
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Irritability

How can screen fatigue be prevented?

Well, the simple answer is to avoid screens - or at least to reduce time spent in front of them.

The not-so-simple answer is that screens are such a huge part of our everyday lives. Realistically, avoiding them isn’t always feasible.

One way to reduce screen-time is to replace certain activities with ones that don’t involve screens.

You may be thinking “easier said than done”.

If so, we understand.

However, there are many screen-free educational and entertainment options available.

Podcasts and audiobooks offer a great way to reduce screen-time, both for learning and fun.

You can engage kids interested in STEM, cover important historical events, and listen to classic children’s books.

You can also keep busy on rainy days, put podcasts to work in the classroom, and use audio to spark great conversations with your kids.

Here is a compilation of ways homeschool families can use podcasts and audiobooks to jazz up their routine.

Holidays can also be celebrated by listening to engaging audio - here are resources for Valentine’s Day, Halloween, and even Christmas.

If you’re looking for other screen-free options to keep your kids busy, here are a few we’ve covered here on the blog.

And a few more here.

Finishing up, here are 10 independent activities that will occupy your kids without screens while you’re working, cleaning, or just need a moment of peace.


10 Screen-Free Independent Activities to Keep Kids Busy - while listening to Pinna

  1. Puzzles
  2. Board/card games
  3. Legos
  4. Outside play
  5. Sidewalk chalk
  6. Coloring books and crayons
  7. Reading
  8. Drawing
  9. Painting
  10. Arts & crafts

Bottom line, we’re all doing the best we can right now.

But with a little forethought, screen fatigue can be prevented by making some strategic replacements when it comes to our child’s daily activities.


We’re all ears!

What are your favorite screen-free ways to keep your kids entertained and engaged? Share with us on any of our social platforms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Amy Thetford

Amy Thetford

Amy is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to her tribe of tiny humans. She's fueled by coffee and the desire to do ALL. THE. THINGS. She blogs about all things motherhood at realtalkwithamy.com