Can Too Much Technology Really Hurt My Child’s Eyes?

Kids may start their days by watching cartoons on TV and texting their friends on their way to school. In the classroom, teachers could ask them to complete assignments on computers or watch educational programming on TVs. When kids get home, they often play video games, do homework on computers, or spend time on social media on their smartphones. Why does this matter? Staring at the screen of a TV, smartphone, tablet, or computer for too long can cause a number of vision problems in children, including:

Eye Strain

Looking at a screen for a long period of time can eventually lead to eye strain, especially if your child is trying to read text off of a small device. But, even if your child is not reading off of his device, he can still suffer from eye strain if he stares at the screen for a long period of time. This problem is often referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), and can affect adults as well as children. If your child begins to experience blurry vision, burning, itchy or tired eyes, he may be suffering from eye strain. To help your child, the American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends that you teach him what is known as the 20-20-20 rule. To prevent eye strain, tell your children to take a 20-second break to look at an object that is about 20-feet away every 20-minutes they spend in front of the screen. This little trick will help your child’s eyes focus on an object so they can readjust to prevent future strains.

Exposure to Light

The screens on electronic devices emit blue and violet lights, which some researchers believe can cause the eyes to age prematurely. Blue light can reach further into the eye than ultraviolet light, which has led many researchers to study whether this light could damage the retina. Unfortunately, if a child does damage his retina because of exposure to blue light, the retina cannot be replaced. Some studies have even found a link between excessive exposure to blue and violet light and the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) later on in life. Research on this matter is still ongoing, but parents should still be cautious about letting their children spend endless hours in front of various screens.

Nearsightedness

Children’s lens and retinas are still developing until they become teenagers. Research has shown that if the distance between the lens and retina begins to lengthen during development, the child is at a greater risk of being nearsighted. What does this have to do with screen time? Research has also proven that exposure to sunlight can reduce a child’s risk of developing nearsightedness. But, many children are not spending as much time outdoors because they are glued to their devices, so they are suffering from a lack of exposure to natural light. This could explain why the number of people who have nearsightedness has increased from 25% to 42% over the last three decades.

Eye Irritation

Children tend to get sucked into whatever activity they’re doing on a computer, tablet, or smartphone. According to a study done in 2009, when children are concentrating solely on their device, they begin to blink less often, which means their eyes will not be properly lubricated by tears. If this continues, your child may begin to experience severe eye irritation caused by the dryness. Dry eyes are also more vulnerable to scratches caused by debris or dust, which are usually cleared out of the eye by tears.

What should you do to protect your child’s vision? You don’t have to stop them from using their favorite devices, but you should limit the amount of time they are able to use them. It’s recommended that children between the ages of 2-5 only spend one hour per day in front of a screen. After the age of five, parents should feel free to monitor their children and set restrictions that they think are fair. You should also take your child in for regular eye examinations so you can identify problems as they arise instead of letting them go untreated over time. How often should they go? According to the AOA, children should begin visiting the eye doctor at six months old. The next eye exam should come when they are three years old, and then again when they are five or six. After this time, try to take your child to the eye doctor every two years unless he begins to experience vision-related issues. By following these steps, you can protect your child’s vision from these potential dangers!

Seven Sun Safety Facts Your Teen Needs to Know

For many of us, lying in the sun is the ultimate relaxation. But too much sun can give you wrinkles, sunburn and put you at risk of skin cancer.

Dr Julie Sharp of Cancer Research answers seven important questions about the effect of sun on your skin and the importance of sunscreen.

1. How long can sunburn last?
seven-sun-facts-for-teensDays. You can get sunburnt in just 10 minutes even in the UK. If you overdo it at a festival or on holiday, skin can be red, painful and peeling for a week or more.

Sunburn also damages your skin for life and doubles your risk of skin cancer.

2. What suncream should I use?
Use factor 15 plus with UVA and UVB protection, and apply regularly (every two to three hours). Use more after swimming. The paler your skin is, the greater care you need to take. If you’re blonde, a redhead, have fair skin or lots of moles or freckles, you have a higher risk of skin cancer and need to take extra care.

3. I’m black. Is sun exposure still dangerous?
Yes. Black skin can burn too – it just takes more heat to do it. Although very dark black skin has a natural SPF, we still advise using an SPF of 15; although skin cancer is less common in black people, it tends to be more aggressive. Take particular care of the soles of your feet and palms of your hands, as they’re more prone to skin cancer.

4. Sun makes me feel good. What’s so bad about it anyway?
Right now the worst thing about it might seem like sunburn and strap marks, but give it a few years and you could have wrinkles, moles, freckles, brown patches and, sometimes, skin cancer. Every year, 2,000 people die from malignant melanoma, and skin cancer is the second most common cancer in 20- to 39-year-olds.

5. Is sunbathing really worse when you’re a teenager?
Yes, younger skin is more easily damaged than older skin. And you can’t undo the damage. Once you’ve been sunburnt your skin will age prematurely.

6. I’m still not persuaded. Anything else to put me off?
The most common kind of skin cancer is rarely fatal. But it can be seriously disfiguring. If skin cancer is found on the face it has to be cut out and may even need plastic surgery. There is a risk of permanent scarring, or part of your nose may have to be cut away.

7. Are sunbeds safer?
No. Getting a tan on a sunbed will increase your risk of getting skin cancer and make you look old.

It is now illegal for under 18s to use sunbeds (*in the UK). Find more information on the Cancer Research website.

Editor’s Note: *clarification provided for our US readers.

Click here for a US state-by-state assessment of tanning restrictions for teens.

 





Child Health & Safety News 3/27: Treating Kids with Brain Injuries

twitter thumbIn this week’s Children’s Health News: Helping Teens Rethink the Sexy Selfie | McAfee Blogs https://t.co/SYBUXNE3sW 

Welcome to Pediatric Safety’s weekly “Child Health & Safety News Roundup”- a recap of the past week’s child health and safety news headlines from around the world. Each day we use social media to communicate relevant and timely health and safety information to the parents, medical professionals and caregivers who follow us. Occasionally we miss something, but overall we think we’re doing a pretty good job of keeping you informed. But for friends and colleagues not on Twitter or FB (or who are but may have missed something), we offer you a recap of this past week’s top 20 events & stories.

PedSafe Child Health & Safety News Headline of the Week:
UCLA researchers’ finding holds promise for treating children after brain injuries

Childhood Illnesses – Are We Winning The Battle?

As with any illness, it is best to prevent than to treat.  Our progress in battling some devastating childhood illnesses over the years has centered on the introduction and efficiency of our existing vaccines and effective preventive medications.

One of the first notable vaccines was that produced to prevent paralytic polio.   Early on this was an oral vaccine and we (of a certain age) can remember the sugar cubes given out in school followed in rapid order by oral and then injectable types of the vaccine. These obviously were very effective in eliminating the most dreaded form of polio- that which produced paralysis in children and young adults.  Again, some of us remember trying to fall asleep at night thinking of that terrible disease and the pictures of “iron lungs” (a type of whole-body respirator) lined up in the hallways of hospitals.  There was no treatment and as of today there is still no treatment.  However the severe clinical outcome has been erased.  Polio virus is still around today and is not uncommon but is such a mild illness that affected people may not even realize they might have it. (Very similar to many of our common every day illnesses)

Many of us also remember smallpox vaccine that left a puckered, stippled scar on the top of our shoulders.  As it began disappearing from the US due also to better and newer isolation techniques, it was noticed that there were more bothersome reactions than actual cases of small pox in this country.   Also worldwide there were fewer and fewer outbreaks that became controllable with the above mentioned isolation techniques.  Smallpox vaccine was discontinued.

With the advent of improved TB testing and effective medicines, a vaccine became unnecessary although the disease still exists, it is controllable and treatable.

Measles, mumps and German measles used to take its toll on primitive peoples of the world until there were effective vaccines that prevented the illnesses and sometimes the birth defects that would arise in babies born to women who had had German measles during pregnancy.

Hemophilus influenza is a common bacterium causing some illnesses in this country and around the world but the most dreaded of these was a virulent kind of meningitis (infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord, leading to some life-long neurologic deficits in children and even death).  While I was in my training to become a Pediatrician a vaccine was developed to eradicate this illness and within a very short time the incidence of hemophilus meningitis dropped severely – today it is a rarity.

More recently we have seen the development of effective and efficient vaccines to help prevent influenza, chickenpox, hepatitis, meningitis, rabies, and the list is constantly increasing (this is not a complete list).  Along with this ongoing effort is the continued development of medications to help treat the rare illnesses that still crop up occasionally.

The bottom line is that we have many weapons at our disposal to defeat our viral and bacterial contagious diseases in children and adults but those who ignore the value of immunizations at an early age are not only placing their own children at risk but the childhood and adult population of the entire country.  Many of these illnesses are highly contagious and infectious but we must all work together to control and hopefully eventually eradicate these deadly microscopic enemies.

Tomorrow Night: Power Rangers is Sensory Friendly at AMC

AMC Entertainment (AMC) has expanded their Sensory Friendly Films program in partnership with the Autism Society. This Tuesday evening, families affected by autism or other special needs have the opportunity to view a sensory friendly screening of Power Rangers, a film that may appeal to older audiences on the autism spectrum. 

As always, the movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

AMC and the Autism Society will be showing Power Rangers tomorrow, Tuesday, March 28th at 7pm (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming in April: The Boss Baby (Sat, 4/8), Ghost in the Shell (Tues, 4/11), Smurfs: The Lost Village (Sat, 4/22) and The Fate of the Furious (Tues, 4/25),

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Editor’s note: Although Power Rangers has been chosen by AMC and the Autism Society for a Tuesday Sensory Friendly screening, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for sequences of sci-fi violence, action and destruction, language, and for some crude humor. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your family.

AMC Has Beauty and the Beast Sensory Friendly Tomorrow

New sensory friendly logoAMC Entertainment (AMC) and the Autism Society have teamed up to bring families affected by autism and other special needs “Sensory Friendly Films” every month – a wonderful opportunity to enjoy fun new films in a safe and accepting environment.

The movie auditoriums will have their lights turned up and the sound turned down. Families will be able to bring in snacks to match their child’s dietary needs (i.e. gluten-free, casein-free, etc.), there are no advertisements or previews before the movie and it’s totally acceptable to get up and dance, walk, shout, talk to each other…and even sing – in other words, AMC’s “Silence is Golden®” policy will not be enforced during movie screenings unless the safety of the audience is questioned.

Does it make a difference? Absolutely! Imagine …no need to shhhhh your child. No angry stares from other movie goers. Many parents think twice before bringing a child to a movie theater. Add to that your child’s special needs and it can easily become cause for parental panic. But on this one day a month, for this one screening, everyone is there to relax and have a good time, everyone expects to be surrounded by kids – with and without special needs – and the movie theater policy becomes “Tolerance is Golden“.

Families affected by autism or other special needs can view a sensory friendly screening of Beauty and the Beast on Saturday, March 25th at 10am (local time). Tickets are $4 to $6 depending on the location. To find a theatre near you, here is a list of AMC theatres nationwide participating in this fabulous program (note: to access full list, please scroll to the bottom of the page).

Coming soon:  Power Rangers (Tues, 3/28), The Boss Baby (Sat, 4/8) and Gifted (Tues, 4/11)

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Editor’s note: Although Beauty and the Beast has been chosen by the AMC and the Autism Society as this month’s Sensory Friendly Film, we do want parents to know that it is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America for some action violence, peril and frightening images. As always, please check the IMDB Parents Guide for a more detailed description of this film to determine if it is right for you and your child.