Digital Screens and Your Child: How to Protect Their Eyes

March 12th, 2020
happy woman holding child

Developing young eyes need extra protection, especially from digital screens. Here’s what you need to know about caring for your child’s vision.

There’s nothing wrong with letting children have a little fun with smartphones and other devices, but too much screen time can be harmful to their eyes. This is especially important to take note of around this time of year, with many children receiving new toys and digital devices as holiday gifts. 

So how can you manage the post-holiday boost in screen use? Try following these simple tips to keep your child’s eyes safe from digital screens.

The Dangers of Too Much Screen Time

According to Medline Plus, children over the age of two should be limited to two hours of screen time per day. However, recent studies have shown that kids under eight now spend more than two hours in front of their screens, and screen usage at least triples by the time they approach middle and high school.

At best, too much screen time can cause irritation and “computer vision syndrome,” or digital eye strain. This condition is most often seen in adults with jobs that require a lot of computer use, but children are vulnerable too. Symptoms of digital eye strain include headaches, dry eyes, and fatigue. 

At worst, spending too much time in front of digital screens leads to prolonged exposure to blue light. Blue light naturally occurs in sunlight and is artificially replicated in digital screens of all kinds. In small doses, blue light can help you feel more alert and productive, but too much exposure can permanently damage your eyes. 

Blue light damage and digital eye strain can happen to anyone, but young children need stronger eye protection because their bodies are still developing. The digital screen and eye health habits they build now can snowball into serious risk factors in the future. 

If your children continue to increase their screen time as they age, they run the risk of developing macular degeneration, a progressive eye condition that can eventually cause full vision loss. Also, too much screen time increases your child’s likelihood of developing myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness. 

Help Your Little Ones Protect Their Eyes

One of the best things you can do to protect your child’s eyes is to limit their daily screen time to two hours or less. Instead of playing on their smartphones, children can be encouraged to read, play board games, or spend quality time with their family. 

Still, it might be impossible to get your child to put down the tablet for an entire afternoon. Fortunately, there are other small steps you can take to protect their eyes. 

To start, enforce short but routine breaks from digital devices. For every 20 minutes children spend in front of a screen, have them take short breaks (ideally 20 seconds spent looking at something 20 feet away). This gives the eye muscles time to relax and helps relieve the symptoms of digital eye strain. You can also add blue light filtering screens to all portable electronic devices. 

To stay on top of your child’s eye health, contact ICON Eyecare to schedule an eye appointment at the beginning of each school year. Our licensed professionals will make sure your child’s eyes are as healthy as possible — and give you even more tips for reducing their risk of vision problems. 

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