As parents can attest, the amount of time kids spend plugged in can be a real problem. There are plenty of good reasons for parents' concern. But it isn't just that it's sedentary, isolating, and decreases their attention spans. Digital screens also cause eye damage and vision problems.
One of these problems, computer vision syndrome, is also known as digital eye strain. More concerning, however, is the potential permanent damage blue light causes to the eyes. But kids aren't the only ones affected. Adults' eyes are affected by digital screens as well. Dr. Todd Brantley with Lone Star Vision says “We have seen an alarming number of kids who suffer from various eye conditions due to the overuse of digital devices and computers. Nearsightedness (Myopia) has exponentially increased in the younger population because of all the near demands. Let's face it, kids spend way too much time these days on their smartphones, and most schools have moved to requiring all schoolwork on Chromebooks or similar computer systems. In addition to refractive changes, we are seeing higher rates of computer eye strain and dry eye syndrome at early ages than ever before."
Digital eye strain
Computer vision syndrome causes vision problems and eye discomfort. As the American Optometric Association (AOA) explains, it results from extended viewing of computer screens, e-readers, tablets, and cell phones. The more time spent on digital devices, the worse the discomfort becomes.
According to The Vision Council, computer vision syndrome symptoms include eyestrain, dry eyes, headache, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.
Fortunately, there are several solutions to prevent or cure computer vision syndrome. First, set limits on daily leisure media use for yourself and your child. Because of the numerous adverse effects of media consumption, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) announced recommendations in 2016 for children's media use.
• For children under 18 months, limit screen media exclusively to video-chatting.
• From 18 to 24 months, look for high-quality programming. Although the APA doesn't specify an amount of time for this age group, less than one hour a day can be presumed based on the next age group.
• For ages 2 to 5 years, allow no more than one hour a day of media.
• Kids ages 6 and older should have consistent limits for their total media time and specific restrictions on various media types. In recognizing each family and child is different, the APA hasn't set a standard amount of time for this age group. But outside of family media activities and homework, kids should spend only a small percentage of their day plugged in.
Finally, follow the easy-to-remember 20-20-20 rule that's recommended by the AOA. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second screen break by looking at something 20 feet away.
Blue light hazards
In addition to computer vision syndrome, exposure to blue light is another digital screen hazard. Blue light comes from many sources. This includes and comes primarily from sunlight as well as LED and fluorescent lighting. But smartphones, flat-screen TVs, computers, and electronic notebooks also emit significant amounts of blue light.
The problem is that our eyes can't block blue light very well so it penetrates through the cornea and lens of the eye, then it reaches the retina. Prolonged exposure to blue light is likely a contributor to macular degeneration and vision loss in some cases. Dr. Ben Lundeen with Lone Star Vision adds, “Our doctors regularly prescribe blue-light filter coatings on all patient lenses to reduce eyestrain and fatigue from computers and handheld devices. This will potentially help protect the eyes from unwanted damage to the retina in the long run."
But our eyes aren't the only thing impacted by blue light. Harvard researchers found that blue light affects our circadian rhythm and throws off the body's biological clock. The Harvard Health Letter reported, "Blue light has a dark side," literally. Night-time light exposure appears to be particularly unhealthy. Numerous studies have linked exposure to light at night (while working the night shift) with breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
Minimizing screen time is one of the most obvious ways to reduce exposure. If you or your child spend much time on digital devices, stay up late, or work the night shift, wear blue-blocking glasses. This will also reduce the likelihood of eye damage or throwing your circadian rhythm out of balance.
Learn more at LoneStarVision.com
Luxury Eyecare at Lone Star Vision
Dr. Todd Brantley, OD, Dr. Brad Hanstad, OD, Dr. Benjamin Lundeen, OD
1060 S Preston Rd #100, Celina, TX 75009