Digital eye strain is gaining a great deal of attention as technology pervades every aspect of our lives. We use smartphones, tablets, laptops, and televisions for work, entertainment, and school. For most people, rarely a day goes by that digital devices do not play a major role in their day. From balancing checkbooks to playing the latest Candy Crush Saga or Clash of Kings, our devices have become a part of our daily routine.
Curbing an addiction to electronics is not just about the need for self-discipline. Limiting screen time for children is a legitimate health concern. The eyes of children and teens are very sensitive, and digital devices can cause problems from eye fatigue to poor sleep habits. Children are especially susceptible to digital eye strain which can include symptoms of:
- Blurred vision
- Eye fatigue
- Dry eye
- Double vision
The other danger of digital devices is blue light exposure. This short wavelength light (400-500nm) is in the high energy spectrum and is emitted from computers, cell phones and tablets. The energy of blue light can penetrate young eyes and cause retinal damage. This is because children’s eyes develop gradually, and they lack a certain filter that protects their eyes. Adults have protective pigments in the eyes that help prevent blue light exposure.
This information is not meant to scare you as a parent or coerce you into permanently banning all electronic devices for your children. There are, however, a few choices that you can make as a parent to protect your child:
- For young children, limit screen time to weekends and use digital devices as a reward. Most likely, they do not need phones or devices for schoolwork, so they can enjoy games and apps on weekends.
- For older kids, allow electronic devices only at certain times of the day such as after homework and meals.
- Have a set time that electronics need to be turned off because overexposure to blue light can disrupt sleep patterns.
- Talk to your eye care professional about prescription or non-prescription lenses that can filter blue light. Filtered lenses allow children’s eyes to be more comfortable, and they will be protected against eye damage.