Are your kids spending too much time in front of the screen? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children should spend no more than two hours per day in front of a screen. “Screen time” is not just television but includes computers, tablets, smart phones and LED monitors. Too many hours in front of a screen can cause many problems such as obesity, impaired academic performance, behavior problems, sleep problems and digital eye strain (Source: Mayo Clinic).
What is Digital Eye Strain?
Digital eye strain is a temporary vision condition caused by the prolonged use of technology. Symptoms of digital eye strain may include:
- Burning, itchy or tired eyes
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
- Loss of focus
- Headaches and head pain
- Neck pain
Do Your Kids Over-Use Electronics?
The American Optometric Association recently conducted a survey among children aged 10 to 17 and found that 83 percent of these children spent 3 or more hours a day on electronic devices. The parents of these children were also surveyed, and the results were surprising. Only 40 percent of parents were aware that their children used electronics for this length of time (Source: AOA).
Three or more hours of electronics far exceeds the screen time recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, this is not the most concerning fact. What is most concerning is that parents are unaware of their children’s habits. Electronic devices such as smart phones, tablets and LED screens emit high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light. Early research has found these rays may prematurely age the eyes and even cause long-term vision problems like age-related macular degeneration.
Keeping Eyes Healthy in a Digital Age
Let’s face it: electronics are here to stay. Most kids are quickly surpassing adults in their proficiency in using electronic devices, yet they often do not have the maturity and self-control to make wise choices concerning their eyesight. It is the privilege of a parent to help children to create positive habits. Since most schools utilize technology in the classroom, children may have used half of their allotted two hours in computer class or using an iPad for a math activity.
Here are a few tips to start the dialogue:
- Talk to your children about how much time they are spending in front of the screen and the importance of limiting that time for the sake of their vision
- Remind them of the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20 second break every 20 minutes and look at something at least 20 feet away
- When children are in front of a screen, remind them to blink often. This prevents dry eye and keeps eyes refreshed.
- Explain why they need to have regular eye exams. Comprehensive eye exams can help diagnose eye issues and can also provide a good assessment of overall wellness.