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

Last updated on March 2nd, 2018 at 12:09 pm

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!

About the Author

Tara Heath is a 37 year old health professional and works as a freelancer writer in the evenings. Her writing focuses mainly on health, such as skincare and how to live a healthy lifestyle overall. She lives in Burbank, Ca. with her husband and two beautiful daughters ages eight and twelve.

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