Parents are often confronted with the question of how much screen time to allow their children. While several factors may influence your decision, screen time can cause a range of social, emotional, and physical effects on children. Research has shown, for example, that too much screen time can cause changes in a child’s overall development and even lead to increased rates of childhood obesity.
But an often-overlooked effect of screen time? Your child’s eye health.
Managing screen time can help your child’s eyes stay healthy and develop normally. Keep reading to learn more about how screen time can affect children’s eyes.
How does screen time affect my child’s eye health?
In the U.S. alone, the number of people with nearsightedness has nearly doubled in the last 40 years. Nearsightedness, or vision that is blurrier for objects that are further away, often requires management with eyeglasses or contacts in both children and adults.
Research indicates that while screen time is a big part of the increase in nearsightedness cases, it’s more the act of close-work activities, including reading books. But the general trend towards being indoors more and doing more of these close-work activities inevitably leads to more screen time.
Eye strain causes a range of symptoms and, while not permanent, can be uncomfortable for children. Looking too long at a screen can lead to less blinking, for example, which can lead to dry eyes, changes in vision, or even headaches.
Changes in sleep habits
The blue light emitted by digital devices has been shown to affect our sleep habits. Some studies have shown that blue light can prevent the body from producing melatonin, which is the body’s signal that it’s time to sleep.
How do I protect my child’s eyes?
Remind your child to take breaks from screens
Taking regular breaks from close-work activities and using digital screens can help your child’s eyes immensely. A break can remind your child to blink more regularly and lubricate their eyes. It also forces them to do other activities other than look at a screen, which could help their eyes refocus.
Activities could range from using a different, non-digital device or toy, or going outside to play.
Use artificial tears as needed
To help with eye dryness, using artificial tears can help lubricate the eyes and relieve the symptoms of dry eyes.
Get the eye care your child needs
Illinois Eye Center offers routine pediatric eye exams to help keep your child’s eyes healthy and developing normally. Our experts can also provide personalized guidance to help you manage your child’s use of digital screens and maintain healthy eyes.
For more serious eye conditions that may require medical treatment or surgery, the IEC team can provide a referral to a pediatric ophthalmologist for ongoing treatment.