Screen TIme and Your Child’s Eyes
For better or for worse, technology and screen time is a part of our daily lives. Exposure to screens can cause dry eye, fatigue and digital eye strain in adults, but how is all this screen time impacting children? For children with vision that is still developing all of this time on screens may impact their vision and future eyesight. How much screen time is too much time, and how can it cause eye conditions in children or pediatric vision problems? Read on to find out.
Screens, screens and more screens.
From computers, to TV, tablets, video games, and phones most of a child’s day is spent on screens. Gone are the days when attending school would offer a much needed break from the digital world. Not only are virtual classrooms still in existence after the pandemic, in person learning has students using laptops and cellphones to complete assignments and even young children are offered tablets to learn on. It’s a digital world and that isn’t going to change. Kids are being exposed to screens younger and younger for longer periods of time. According to All About Vision in 2017 kids aged 8-10 spent an average of six hours a day on screens and middle-school and high school aged children/teens spent up to nine hours a day. That study was before the pandemic which increased kids’ overall screen time as the world went virtual.
How Screen Time Impacts Children
Too much screen time can have negative consequences for kids as well as adults. Here are some common problems associated with kids spending too much time on screens:
- Digital Eye Strain/Computer Vision Syndrome — caused by extended screen time and visual fatigue. Symptoms include: fluctuating vision, tired eyes, dry eyes, headache and fatigue.
- Nearsightedness — The presence of nearsightedness (myopia) has increased significantly in the past few decades and experts believe it is related to the increase in screen time.
- Increased Blue-light Exposure — Blue light exposure mainly comes from sunlight. Too much sun exposure can contribute to eye conditions such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Researchers worry that additional exposure to blue light emitted by the LED screens of digital devices may increase these risks especially when started at an early age.
Tips to Avoid Too Much Screen Time/ Vision Problems
- Cut back on time on screens when possible. Try to buy your child a book instead of downloading it. Reading from a printed book is less fatiguing for the eyes than reading from a screen.
- Get them outside — Have kids play sports, engage with friends and do old school activities like play outside!
- Set an example — If you are constantly on your phone then that’s what your child sees as normal. Try taking your child for a walk and looking at nature instead of taking pictures of it on your phone. The break will be good for both of you.
- Consider blue-light blocking glasses for you and your child to cut back on digital eye strain and blue light exposure.
- Teach your kids the 20-20-20 rule. Look 20 feet away from screens every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Eye exercises can help strengthen the eyes and have even shown to be helpful in managing eye changes associated with ADHD.
If you need help navigating screen-time and wonder what a healthy balance should be or what the risks and benefits are you can visit Media Smarts for more tips and suggestions.
Other Signs of Vision Problems in Children
In addition to the symptoms caused by digital eye strain there are other signs that may indicate your child may have vision problems according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Some of the more common signs include:
- Blurry vision or double vision
- Squinting or holding objects close to the eyes
- Headaches or eye strain
- Turning or tilting the head or covering or closing one eye
- A strabismus (turned eye)
- Excessive blinking
- Rubbing, tearing, itchy or burning eyes
Be sure to have your child seen by an eye doctor if they are displaying these behaviours or complaining about their eyesight.
More Screen Time Means More Screening Time
The more time your child spends on screens the more important it becomes to provide regular vision screening through routine eye exams to catch problems early. Many childhood eye conditions can be corrected and early detection of pediatric eye problems is imperative to ensure vision develops correctly. Be sure to schedule regular pediatric eye exams and if your child is showing any symptoms of vision problems make an appointment with your eye doctor.