UNITED STATES—A report from The Conversation highlights that teens spend an average of 8.5 hours looking at screens every day for gaming and using social media, while tweens aged 8 to 12 clock in 5.5 hours of screen time daily. These numbers don’t include time spent using devices for schoolwork, leading to worries from parents about the repercussions of uninhibited screen time on their children’s eye health.

In this article, we’ll examine how excessive screen time impacts kids’ eyesight and what parents can do to prevent such consequences.

Children’s screen time and its impact on eye health

One common consequence of excessive screen time among children is digital eye strain. According to experts, digital eye strain is characterized by symptoms such as dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and eye fatigue. This is because near work, such as computer use and playing video games, requires the eyes to focus on objects up close, resulting in eye muscles becoming fatigued.

Furthermore, there is a growing concern about the association between too much screen time and the development of myopia or nearsightedness. In the US, more and more children at increasingly younger ages have become myopic, with optometrists and ophthalmologists agreeing that this trend can be attributed to not enough time spent outdoors coupled with prolonged exposure to digital devices. This is a significant concern, as early-onset myopia can lead to dangerous vision problems later in life.

While recent medical advancements for the treatment of myopia in children, like atropine eyedrops and special contact lenses called orthokeratology, have shown great potential, there are other measures parents can take to help their kids build healthier screen time habits and mitigate vision issues.

What parents can do to protect their kids eyesight

Encourage Kids To Spend More Time Outdoors

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Maria Liu, an associate professor of clinical optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, explained that spending time outdoors is one of the best ways to protect kids’ eyesight. She also stressed that being fully outdoors in the sunlight is key to preventing early-onset myopia. Adults benefit from being outdoors and away from screens as well. So, join your kids outside, take time to breathe in fresh air, and scan the horizon for 3-5 minutes to exercise your distance vision.

Give Them Blue Light Glasses

Prolonged exposure to blue light rays from digital devices can increase oxidative damage and harm human retinal cells. Children are especially at risk since their eyes grow and continue to develop after birth and again during puberty. To mitigate these effects, parents can have their kids wear blue light glasses that filter blue-violet light and preserve visual comfort. Eyebuydirect offers affordable blue light glasses that can be customized with or without prescription lenses. Simple and lightweight glasses like the Nala or Amity frames also ensure that kids can wear them comfortably for long periods.

Reduce Screen Time Before Bed

In one study, researchers found that among adolescents with high-frequency rate and duration of screen use exceeding 6 hours daily, nearly half reported having poor sleep quality, feeling fatigued, and a lack of concentration. Researchers recommended that screen time must be limited to at least one hour before bedtime and establish a routine to promote relaxation. This can include things like reading a book, taking a warm bath, or practicing meditation and breathing exercises to improve sleep quality.

Whether we like it or not, digital devices have become an integral part of everyday life. In many ways, these devices have made life more convenient, allowing us to connect with people all over the world, as well as learn and work remotely. As with most things, however, too much of a good thing can lead to negative consequences. The good news is that parents can take steps to foster healthier screen time habits in kids by encouraging outdoor play, giving children blue light glasses, and limiting device use before bedtime.