How Is Screen Time Affecting Your Children’s Vision?
The amount of time parents spend worrying about their children’s interactions with screens and electronics per day is certainly nothing new: there has been concern for years about cell phones, video games, TV screens, computer usage and more, but today, it seems to be more urgent than ever before.
This is because a wide variety of studies show that children of all ages spend more time on these devices than previous generations. Coupled with recent studies showing the correlation between screen time and negative effects on mental health, brain development, and vision, there is clearly a reason for concern.
In this piece, we’ll explore the following: are your children’s eyes being damaged by electronic screens, and if so, how can you prevent further harm?
The Link Between Screen Time and Health Risks
There is a multitude of studies published every year discussing just how much screen time has increased among the younger generations:
As reported by CNN, screen time for children younger than just two years old has doubled since 1997.
Another study found that 20% of youths between the ages of 14 and 17 spent over 7 hours in front of some type of screen per day.
There have been studies that suggest the health effects as well, and they aren’t positive. Research shows that too much screen time can affect brain development in younger children, social development, and one study found that screen time is linked to depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.
The Links Between Screen Time and Vision
Given these potentially serious effects of too much screen time, it’s understandable that threats to your children’s eyesight may go overlooked. With this in mind, there are some concerning trends happening in children’s vision:
According to an American Academy of Ophthalmology report, myopia, also known as nearsightedness, has increased by 42% worldwide since the early 1970s.
The correlation between screen time and occurrences of myopia show an obvious link, but contrary to popular belief, nearsightedness is not worsened only by looking at screens. In fact, a study published in Ophthalmology found that all activities that use up-close visual focus (reading books and magazines included) could lead to higher rates of myopia in children.
This makes sense; along with an increase in electronics use among children, there has been a decrease in the amount of time spent playing outside, where longer vision is used more often.
What Can We Do About Screen Time?
If your child spends hours per day on a phone or tablet, it can seem pretty normal, seeing as many members of their peer group may be doing the same thing. Now that we understand the risks to visual health, it’s important to make sure your kids are protected.
One way is the most obvious: limit screen time. Limiting your children to one or two hours of electronics time per day, encouraging them to play outside, and doing more outdoor activities as a family is a great way to protect their eyes from harm in the short term.
Still, though, electronic screens and close-up activities are becoming a larger part of life. For example, many schools distribute tablets to students for school activities, or e-readers with the textbooks for a class pre-loaded. So, what do you do when you can’t limit screen time?
The 20-20-20 Rule
As Eye Centers of Florida’s own Dr. Juan Fernandez explains in the above news segment, giving your eyes an occasional rest from focusing on a screen can go a long way towards supporting lifelong healthy vision.
At Eye Centers of Florida, we recommend teaching your children to use this rule on a regular basis, at home and at school. According to Dr. Fernandez, “if you’re using any kind of screen, every 20 minutes you should look up at something that’s at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.”
This allows the eyes to adjust and lessens the strain of constant focus on something right in front of your face.
Being Vigilant About Children’s Eye Health
Most parents think that if their children’s vision is fine when they get their first eye exam, it’s likely to stay that way. This article should be reason enough to ensure that you’re setting your child up with healthy habits to keep their eyes as healthy as possible, throughout childhood and beyond. To learn more, contact Eye Centers of Florida or schedule your eye exam, today.