It’s no secret that our society has come to rely on digital devices and glowing screens as essential tools in our everyday lives. At our fingertips, we have smartphones, tablets, computers, high definition television, e-readers, and even digital signs are now dotting the landscapes everywhere we turn. This list can go on and on, but what we need do is take a few moments and consider the impact our devices are having on our youngest family members’ eyes. Afterall, our children are following our footsteps and now spend an average of more than seven hours every day looking at a screen in some form.
This is an important topic to examine, because our schools and society are pushing technology in unprecedented manners that have never been seen before. Today’s children are reading books, taking notes in class, submitting assignments, watching videos, and communicating with social media at elevated levels. Whether it’s a child’s use of a laptop for homework or they are engrossed in the newest version of their favorite video game, it’s not all fun and games when the eyes are concerned.
The Effects Technology Has On A Child’s Eyes
Today, people and children are reporting symptoms of eye strain which is directly related to our digital devices. Symptoms often include dry, irritated eyes with blurred vision, eye fatigue, or neck and head aches. Parents need to be on the lookout for signs of digital eye strain in kids, because symptoms can manifest in some surprising ways. Similar to adults, kids may complain of burning, itching, or tired eyes. However, they may also describe headaches, fatigue, inability to focus, double vision, and even head or neck pains.
These symptoms can appear after prolonged exposure to screens and is often magnified when screens are in close proximity to the user. According to The Vision Council, people can start experiencing eye strain in as little as two hours of looking at a device, greatly affecting the acuity of our eyes or the clarity of our vision. The rates of eye strain dramatically increase if a person uses more than one device at a time.
Unfortunately, digital eye strain is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential eye problems. Our devices and electronics also emit blue and violet lights, which have been linked to a whole host of problems. These range from interrupting our biorhythms to affecting our vision and even aging our eyes prematurely. Studies from the American Optometric Association are showing that overexposure to these blue lights can lead to serious conditions, like macular degeneration which leads to blindness, down the road. If that isn’t enough cause for concern, there is also evidence that a lack of exposure to natural light can affect the growth of developing eyes leading to a jump in cases of nearsightedness in children and teens.
“A child’s eyes are still changing between the ages of 5 and 13 years old,” said Dr. Barbara Horn, trustee for the AOA. “Therefore, during this time, the distance between the lens and the retina is also still changing. When the distance between the two lengthens, we see an increase in the instances of nearsightedness. Preliminary studies are now showing us that exposure to natural light may play a role in reducing the likelihood of nearsightedness.”
Protecting A Child’s Eyes From Too Much Tech
In the grand scheme of things, technology and devices are a relatively new blip on our evolutionary timelines. Within the past 30 or so years, digital advancements have become so ingrained in our children’s lives at school and home that we haven’t had time to adequately study the real impact they are having on our children’s health.
Listed below are five ways we can reduce the impact devices have on their eyes:
Implement the 20-20-20 Rule. To help reduce eye strain, the AOA recommends that you should take a 20 second break for every 20 minutes of looking at a device or a screen by looking at something 20 feet away.
Limit screen time. Set limits and encourage kids to explore other interests.
Wear special glasses to reduce glares from computer screens. Look for glasses with anti-glare coatings or purchase tinted lenses to help reduce digital eye strain.
Revisit printed media. Go ahead and buy an actual book. Ditch the e-book in favor of a classic.
Get outside and embrace natural light. Put down the devices and get kids outdoors.
Do you believe that our digital devices may be harming our sons’ and daughters’ vision?