Seldom do we go a day without using a digital screen. Be it being at work on a computer all day, or reading off a tablet, or tending to your smartphone apps, these screens can be harmful to our eyes, especially children’s eyes. Younger and younger, kids are being exposed to digital screens without knowing the dangers of spending too much time in front of one.
The Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a survey to find the average amount of time spent interacting with technology (outside of school related activities). One average, children eight to 18 years old spend seven and a half hours a day in front of a screen. Add that to the average three hours a day of homework children under 18 years old have, and that’s 10 and a half hours a day of screen time (assuming homework is done on a computer or tablet).
You don’t need to be a doctor to figure that 10 hours in front of a screen can be damaging to young eyes that are still developing. Generally, kids don’t exercise the same self-control as adults when it comes to playing video games or starting at their phones, the same way they eat candy on Halloween until they hurl. Kids don’t know their limits, but parents should.
The Dangers of the Digital Age
Before the digital age truly bloomed, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or Digital Eye Strain most commonly affected office workers in their mid-30s who spend eight hour days in front of a computer screen. However this eye syndrome is no longer exclusive to office workers.
The Pew Research Center has found that 88 percent of teens (ages 13 to 17) own or at least have access to a smartphone, while only 12 percent don’t. For those who are unfamiliar, smartphones are more than just a cellphone; they’re tiny computers that fit in your pocket making it easily accessible anywhere you go.
This aforementioned lack of self-control is the exact reason why so many schools have been forced to implement restrictions on cellphone use during school and in classrooms. Though these restrictions are in place to reduce distractions, it also gives the children’s eyes a digital break.
Some symptoms of CVS are: headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye strain, and dry eyes. If your child exhibits two or more of these symptoms, a trip to your eye doctor may be needed.
Treating CVS varies from person to person. One treatment is to get prescription glasses specifically for computer or other screens. This relieves the eye strain that comes with being focused on a screen for long periods of time.
Another treatment is changing the way your child looks at their screens. For example, changing the angle of the screen and getting a glare filter can drastically change the amount of strain on their eyes. This treatment is often used for more mild cases of CVS and computer-related vision problems.
The third treatment is to take a daily vision-enhancing vitamin supplement, which can be found right here on our website. Eye vitamins not only reduce the strain taken on by the eyes, but also work to strengthen the eyes and prevent digital eye strain from making a recurring appearance along with other eye-related syndromes and diseases.
Dos and Don’ts
Like anything, there are good ways and bad ways to approach teaching your kids about taking a digital break. The idea isn’t to make them quit cold turkey, it’s to teach them how to responsibly use screens without harming their eyes.
A big DON’T is to scold them for spending too much time on their tablet or phone or playing video games. We live in a digital age, whether our eyes like it or not. It’s important for your kids to grow up with a good relationship to technology without abusing it. Taking away their screens will only be met with strong backlash. That’s why moderation is key.
There are a lot more dos than don’ts. This is first one is DO take a break. If they don’t actually get up and walk around, at least have them stop to look out the window or at something still that won’t strain the eye. Our 10-10-10 Rule is a great exercise for anyone who spends long periods of time in front of a digital device. It allows your child’s eyes to readjust and refocus, reducing the strain.
Another DO is to set boundaries. Let’s say you allow your child four hours of screen time a day; it is up to them to split that time between phone use, computer use for entertainment and homework, video games, TV, etc. This gives them some freedom and responsibility when it comes to using technology, but it also teaches them to be picky about what they use.
You can also set boundaries for your children as to when technology is off limits. For example, maybe no phones are allowed during meal times, or two hours a day are set aside for outdoor activities where technology is not permitted.
One last DO is to set a good example for your children. Don’t just tell them what to do, show them. By exercising your own self-control over technology use, you’ll be leading the way for your kids and improving your own eye health.
Screens aren’t the bad guys here. Our unwillingness to let go of them is. By re-evaluating your own personal technology use and your families, you’re on your way to having healthier and happier eyes as well as quality of life. Don’t be stuck in front of a computer all day. Get up for a walk, or pick up your favorite book.