Modern life is so inescapably tied to computers that many countries consider internet access to be a basic “utility,” just like electricity and running water. As our children grow up in this digital age, we need to be cautious regarding the negative effects of electronic device exposure and take preventative steps to reduce them.
Why is Screen Time Harmful?
Looking at the illuminated screens of digital devices like smartphones, tablets and video games has increasingly become routine for every member of the family- appealing to grandparents and infants alike. Extended viewing of these glowing objects, which we typically hold or place near us at a short focal length, has been proven to contribute to several problematic eye conditions.
- Dry Eye: Decreased blink rate (and/or decrease in the quality of blinks) can cause dry eye related issues- leading to discomfort, light sensitivity and blurry vision.
- Digital Eye Strain: Extensive focus on a digital device commonly causes a group of immediate effects- including eye soreness and heaviness, headaches, nausea, neck/shoulder pain and irritability. (Parents even report poor child behavior following excessive screen time!)
- Myopia: The rapidly increasing number of worldwide myopia cases, or nearsightedness, has been linked to growing use of and exposure to computer screens.
In addition, there are several other harmful effects of screen time that are still under speculation, as long-term impact can be difficult to prove when the culprit has entered our lives somewhat recently.
How Can I Protect My Family?
Although studies show substantial daily screen time spanning all age groups, it is also very likely that many children actually spend quite a bit more time with their electronic devices than their parents are aware of. Tablets and digital presentation displays are increasingly common in modern classrooms, while video games and many forms of digital entertainment are vastly available- with much potential for becoming addictive.
Eye care professionals recommend the following methods, to reduce the negative effects of screen time on your family’s precious eyes.
- 20-20-20 Method: After every 20 minutes spent on a gadget, remind them to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. (Setting a timer helps as a reminder.)
- Light Control: Dim down the brightness of the screens and discourage the use of them outdoors, where the bright sun can create additional eye straining glare.
- Focal Length & Posture: Encourage good posture, while creating the habit of holding digital devices 18 to 24 inches away from oneself.
- Lens Filters: Obtain eyeglass lenses that have a blue light filter, available at all reputable optical shops, to substantially reduce the amount of your family’s digital light exposure.
Lastly, be sure to keep up with annual eye exams for every member of your family, so that your optometrist can thoroughly and diligently monitor the health of their eyes and vision!