Is Screen-Time Affecting Your Child’s Eyesight?
With the world making us spend more time indoors, our smart devices are being used more than ever. How is this changing and affecting your child’s eyesight?
The last few months have been dedicated to getting through them safely and staying as healthy as possible. With schools closing and spending so much time at home, we have all be spending more time on our smart devices. Our children finished their school year online, stayed in touch with their friends virtually, and stayed active by participating in online activities. How is this screentime affecting their eyes? Before the pandemic made its appearance tablets, phones, and other smart devices were becoming more popular with younger generations. The discussion debating what this was doing to young eyes, and how it could affect them later down the line, had already begun. Now that these smart objects have become necessities, how will they continue to affect our children’s eyes? How can we protect them?
Screentime can go beyond harming your eyesight. It can also begin to disturb your sleep patterns. Children need a lot of sleep every day to help with growth and development. Messing with this can interfere with their progress. When children are tired, they also may have more tantrums, difficulty focusing at school or on everyday tasks, and have a weaker immune system. Plus, a tired child leads to tantrums, not being able to focus at school or during everyday tasks, and can affect their immune system. There is a blue light that is emitted from your phone and smart screens that when looked at in the evening, can trick the brain into thinking it’s daytime. This will shift the body’s circadian rhythm. Movies and video games can also give off this blue light. When it’s getting close to bedtime, start winding down without any devices. It is recommended that you don’t keep or use any smart devices in your child’s room for this reason.
Too much screentime can lead to irritated and dry eyes. Staring at a screen for long periods can cause the eyes to blink less often. This denies the eyes of staying properly lubricated. It can also cause the eyes to become tired and strained, which puts a lot of pressure on young eyes. It can also damage the flexibility of your child’s eyes, as they remain stationary to a screen or item up close. Thankfully this is not a permanent issue, but it can be very frustrating for our little ones. Headaches can also become an issue, while temporary, they can return frequently and be very painful. Neck pain, double vision, head pain, burning and itchy eyes, fatigue, and loss of focus can also appear in children who spend too much time staring at their screens.
According to the American Optometric Association, 41% of parents say their kids spend at least 3 hours a day on their digital devices. The same study shows that 66% of kids have their own tablets or smartphones. The pandemic has changed how children are learning. They are using their eyes in different ways and putting new demands on their bodies. To help with social standing and keep their children entertained, parents have also relaxed their strict rules about how long their children can stay on these devices on days when their children have to be indoors. This additional screentime can begin to cause other issues, such as nearsightedness. Glasses and contacts can correct this issue, but having very severe nearsightedness can indicate more serious issues down the line; it can lead to macular degeneration, retinal detachment, and glaucoma.
How to Help:
- Take more time to play outdoors and as a family.
- Make clear rules about how long your children can watch TV, play video games, be on the computer, be on their phones, and when. Make sure they know when they’re allowed to use them for fun and when they need to be used as educational tools.
- Make a “no screen rule” together, where no one is allowed on their phones. For example, having no screen time at the dinner table, out to eat, or while you’re driving.
- If your children have to work on their smart devices, make sure they take a 20-second break every 20 minutes. Have them get up and stretch and look at something different father away from the screens they were looking at.
- Remind your children to blink while they’re working.
- Switch up the media your children are using. If they are reading online, have them alternate between the screen and an actual book.
- Try to not use computers outside. Natural light reflected by the screen can be damaging to the eyes.
- Promote good posture with your children while they’re working at the computer or any smart device. Make their workspace comfortable and supportive during long hours of work. Have a desk and chair that supports them, keeps their posture up, and is comfortable.
We hope this gave you a better idea of how long screen times can affect your children’s eyes and what you can be doing to help prevent issues in the future. If you have any questions or worries, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We are here to support you and your family! As we begin to head back to some sense of normal, continue to stay safe. Until next time, we are here for all of your eye care needs!