Technology has become an even bigger part of life than it was even just a few years ago. Computers, cell phones, tablets, and video games are staples in homes and even schools these days. It’s no wonder that many parents don’t realize just how much time their children are spending on electronic devices, or, more importantly, the effects of screen time on their kids’ eyes.
Most American children watch about three hours of TV per day. Most kids above the age of four are in school for eight hours a day and should be sleeping for eight hours a night. That’s an astounding amount of time between school and sleep that they are using an electronic device.
It’s even more astounding that so many parents are unaware of how much time their kids are spending on computers and tablets, cell phones and video games. It goes without saying that your child is exposed to screens through school and other kids. Kids from lower-income communities consume twice the screen time as kids in higher-income areas. Parents who don’t believe their kids are getting ample screen time need to be more tuned in.
These numbers have many eye doctors concerned. If parents aren’t aware of their children’s device use, it’s much easier for them to miss the warning signs of children’s vision problems. One common children’s vision condition is Computer Vision Syndrome which is directly caused by overuse of digital devices.
Children’s Vision Problems Associated with Technology Use
Kids who are excessively using electronic devices can begin to experience what is known as digital eye strain. It’s a condition that is caused by using electronic devices for extended periods of time. While the condition is only temporary, kids may begin to experience redness, itchiness, and a burning sensation in their eyes. They may also start getting headaches, feeling fatigued, become unable to focus, and have blurry vision.
While adults can experience these symptoms too, it’s different for kids. Adults are very self-aware. If you spent hours working on the computer and you began to feel tired or uncomfortable, you would likely stop what you were doing. Adults generally know to take a break or go to bed.
Kids aren’t like that. They don’t have that kind of self-awareness and they will sit and play a game or watch videos endlessly. Kids will do anything fun without taking breaks until they literally drop from exhaustion. Unfortunately, using technology without taking breaks can cause problems with their eyes’ ability to focus.
Adults know that there is a problem when their eyes get blurry or they’re unable to focus. Kids, on the other hand, don’t usually make that kind of connection. They don’t realize that there is a problem. Instead, they just learn to work around or with that problem as if it was normal.
These are all reasons why it’s important that parents become more aware of the time their kids are spending using electronic devices. Parents will be able to tell that there is a problem when they notice their kid squinting a lot. Or, when their child leans closer to the computer because it’s easier to see. Parents can begin to limit some of that time if they are truly aware of the hours spent on technology use.
Protecting the Eyes from Digital Strain
If you allow your kids to use electronic devices for extended periods of time, avoid eye strain with these recommendations.
First off, for every 10 minutes of screen time, kids should take a 10-second break from what they’re doing and look at something 10 feet away. This is called the 10-10-10 Rule and it will allow the eyes to relax and reduce the amount of strain they feel.
Parents should also reduce the glare on the computer screen for their kids. They can do this by making sure the computer does not face a window and that there are no lamps reflecting on the screen. In addition, the brightness of the computer screen should be equal to the brightness in the room. They might also opt to purchase a blue light blocker for the screen or a pair of blue light blocking glasses for their kids to wear.
Increasing the font size of the text on the screen will make reading much easier and will reduce eye strain. This is important because some fonts are extremely small. When trying to read a lot of text at once, bigger fonts make it easier on children’s vision, as well as adults’.
Parents should also remind their children to blink a lot. Blinking will give the eyes a break, allow them to stay moistened, and reduce the strain they are put under.
Eye doctors are also concerned about the effects of blue light on the eyes. Blue light gets emitted from computers and other electronic devices. It can cause strain, discomfort, and could eventually lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration. You want to minimize these risks as much as possible while your children are young so that they can continue to have good vision as they age. These are just some of the long-term effects of screen time on children’s vision.
Keep Your Children’s Vision Healthy
Regular eye exams are an important part of keeping the eyes healthy. Children should have an exam around six months old and again before they are three years old. After that, children should receive an eye exam every one to two years, depending on the advice given by their eye doctor.
Parents should also make sure to include eye healthy food in their children’s diets. While it can be difficult to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, it’s important to make sure they eat plenty of them. This is not only for the sake of keeping their eyes healthy and strong. It’s beneficial for the rest of their body.
Children’s vision is vulnerable to damage from too much time spent staring at screens. Since the use of electronic devices only seems to be increasing, parents need to learn how to limit it now. The effects of screen time are just too impactful to ignore.