With daily schedules that include full-time jobs, long commutes, house chores, and extracurricular activities, it’s easy to understand why parents turn to digital devices to occupy their kids for short periods of time. More than being a distraction, they can keep children engaged as well, with the variety of games, videos, and e-books that are available. But, as useful as they can be, these devices come with the concern of their effect on eye health. So how much screen time is too much before it takes a toll on young eyes?
The concern about how digital devices affect eye health has to do with the blue light that is emitted from them. This blue light falls on the violet-blue band of the spectrum and is a high-energy visible light that has shorter wavelengths. It’s naturally present in sunlight, but it’s especially strong when emitted from screens such as TVs, computers, smartphones, and tablets.
There is currently no scientific evidence that blue light causes any damage to the eyes. It does, however, have other effects. One is digital eye strain, which occurs when a lot of time is spent using near vision, such as when reading on a screen or playing online games. This condition can be uncomfortable, but does not actually cause any permanent damage. Another effect of too much screen time is that it can affect a child’s sleep pattern. Using screens close to bedtime may cause children to sleep poorly, which, in turn, affects how they perform the following day.
To ensure that children’s eye health is maintained, it’s best to limit the amount of screen time they are allowed. Blue light filter lenses may help, at least with the effects of digital eye strain. Parents should also try to get their kids outside as often as possible – there is good evidence to suggest that children who spend more time outdoors have a lower risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness). Night settings should be used during night-time hours and digital devices should be turned off at least an hour before bedtime. Finally, regular appointments should be kept at the optometrist office for the whole family.