The truth about what effect digital devices have on your child’s eyes.
Aug 16, 2017
The truth about your child’s eyes when it comes to a screen
With the 2017-2018 school year on the brinks, it is important to understand how your child’s digital devices will affect their eyes. Schools are introducing iPads, tablets, and/or computers into the classroom to help children learn. While children may learn efficiently through digital devices, there are repercussions of overusing digital devices.
Many adults suffer from computer vision syndrome (CVS), also called digital eyestrain, on a daily basis. Digital eyestrain presents serious symptoms caused by the overcompensation of the eyes when trying to focus on a digital screen. Digital eyestrain is now the number one computer related complaint, ahead of carpal tunnel. Adults who work on a computer or screen everyday are susceptible to digital eyestrain. Typically, symptoms of digital eyestrain are common among adults; however, there has recently been an increase in children presenting symptoms of the condition.
Based on the history of computer, smart phone, or other digital screens, it is apparent that these devices were intended for adult use. Today, millions of children use or own a digital screen for educational or recreational use. The average child spends 7.75 hours a day on media and technology1. Because children’s eyes and visual systems are less developed, large amounts of screen time can cause digital eyestrain symptoms that children do not always recognize.
Children frequently ignore problems and do not always recognize when a screen is causing them to feel uncomfortable. Rarely will they readjust to a different position because of a glare on a screen or the position of the device. Because of this, parents need to be equipped to recognize the symptom of their child.
What causes Digital Eye Strain?
The largest culprit of digital eyestrain is blue light. Blue light is a wavelength that emits high energy from digital devices. The wavelengths are centered around 430nm (+/- 20nm) and are believed to contribute to macular degeneration.
Another cause of digital eyestrain is computer-generated pixels, which are very different from looking at a printed black and white paper with words. Our eyes over compensate to view the pixels and make sense of them. This could be harder on your eyes if there is a glare on the screen, which is why understanding lighting is important. Keeping overhead lights to a minimum to reduce glare on a screen could help your eyes reduce strain.
Screen angle and closeness are other causes of digital eyestrain. A screen should always be at Harmon’s distance, which is the distance between the elbow and the first knuckle. The closer the screen is to your eyes the harder they have to work.
Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain
The symptoms to look out for with digital eyestrain include red, irritated, or dry eyes, blurred vision, fatigue, difficulty focusing, headaches, neck pain, and/or back pain. Many children are unable to recognize the symptoms when they occur, so it is vital for parents to watch for signs when monitoring their screen time. For example, if you see a child constantly rubbing their eyes, grabbing their neck or back, squinting, or having difficult time focusing, you should take the child to see an eye care professional.
How do I keep my child from digital eyestrain?
Eye exams are essential for all children to ensure their eyes are healthy. Comprehensive exam by an eye care professional are always the most trusted source, not just a school screening. A child’s first exam should be at six months, again at three years old, one before kindergarten, then one every year after that. Notify your eye care professional about any symptoms of digital eyestrain that you happen to notice.
Limit Device Use
Parents who are aware of how much time their child spends on a screen can limit the amount of digital eyestrain they experience. Experts believe that children under two years should not have access to a device, and children ages 3-18 years should be on a screen less than two hours a day. Monitoring device usage is important for more than just the eyes of a child. More than the allotted time for a screen could also contribute to childhood obesity, irregular sleep patterns, or social and/or behavioral issues. Monitoring screen time to thirty-minute increments can reduce the risk for the repercussions associated with overusing a screen.
Research shows that going outside can prevent the development of nearsightedness. It is also important to keep children active and off of a couch for overall health.
It is important to be informed and equipped to handle digital eyestrain amongst children. This school year take a step back and monitor your child’s screen time because it could save their eyes from the effects of digital eyestrain.