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Children's Eye Health and Safety Month: How to Protect Eye Health by Managing Screen Time

Children's Eye Health and Safety Month: How to Protect Eye Health by Managing Screen Time

The amount of screen time children get is an ongoing concern for modern parents. How much is too much? Can it damage your eyes? Parents have a lot of questions about screen use in the same way our parents asked questions about television. Below we've got some tips on how to manage your screen time and ensure healthy vision for your child (and yourselves! We're pretty sure kids aren't the ones streaming White Lotus and filling our Twitter feed).

Eye Health Products Available at Mountainside Medical Equipment

Myopia and Screen Time

Nearsightedness is on the rise worldwide. Cases of myopia have doubled in the U.S. since 1971, and an estimated 90 percent of teenagers and adults in Asia have issues with nearsightedness. There are a number of speculated reasons for this, and screens may be among them.

It's not just screens: a 2019 study published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, presented evidence that the increasing number of myopia cases was related to near work. This comprises any variety of activity with a short working distance, which means not just screen time but also reading, writing, studying, and homework. So it's not just activities traditionally thought of as frivolous that may cause eye damage -- your child's Nintendo Switch might be a major source of near work, but so is the increasing amount of homework kids are assigned. This is certainly something to watch out for with the move towards distance learning in the Covid era.

Time outdoors is also a factor. Studies suggest that additional time outdoors improves vision development and slows the progression of nearsightedness. Make sure your kids get the time outside that they need!

Digital Eye Strain

When you were young, you were probably told that watching too much TV or sitting too close will ruin your eyesight. Luckily this kind of damage is a myth. But staring at screens too long and doing too much near work does produce physical symptoms for children, ones you're probably familiar with if you spend your days working at a computer:

  • Blurriness.
  • Dry, itchy, or irritated eyes.
  • Headaches.

These symptoms have no permanent damage attached, but make sure your child is taking time away from screens and books so they can avoid this discomfort.

Nighttime Screen Use Insomnia

Sleep Disruption

Proper sleep is massively important to childhood development. It improves both physical and mental well-being, and helps prevent the onset of diseases like childhood obesity. But sleep duration and quality are steadily declining across all age groups in the U.S. Part of this is due to the increased time demands of both workplaces and schools, but screen time is another factor.

Studies show that 90 percent of Americans use a screen within an hour of going to bed at least a few nights a week. Artificial lights can have effects that increase alertness, suppress melatonin, and possibly shift your circadian rhythm, making sleep more difficult. But on the most basic level, screen time convinces you to push back sleep! It's easy to lose track of time when an algorithm is leading you from video to video, and suddenly it's 2 a.m. and you've spent the last four hours learning about defunct theme parks. Don't pretend you haven't been there -- if YouTube can trick you into staying up late, it can keep your children awake too.

Other Physical Symptoms

It's not just your eyes, of course: excessive screen time is linked to inactivity, which comes with a host of health complications, particularly childhood obesity (which is linked to diabetes, which can cause eyesight degradation). Screens can be incredibly useful for learning, and there's nothing wrong with getting some of your entertainment from video games or streaming services, but the biggest takeaway here is balance: make sure your children are getting enough time to play and explore the world. They need time outdoors to stay physically active, develop emotionally, and maintain good eyesight as their body grows.

Family Using Screens Together

Tips for Eye Comfort and Screen Safety

We all have to use screens in our daily life, unless you've entirely gone off the grid and at that point you're probably getting this article delivered to you in cryptograph via carrier pigeon. But for the rest of us, here are some tips for you and your family on preserving your eyes during screen time:

  • The 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, look at an object at least 20 feat away for 20 seconds. Set a timer for your child if you have to.
  • Encourage looking away: stress the importance of looking away from any close work, whether that's screens or books. Children focused on schoolwork can irritate their eyes just as much as kids playing Animal Crossing.
  • Encourage sitting away: a distance of 18 to 24 inches is ideal for screens.
  • Remind them to blink: we normally blink around 15 times a minute, but that's reduced to 5 to 7 blinks when we use screens. Make sure your kids are blinking enough so their eyes can get necessary moisture.
  • Alternate physical books and screen reading.
  • Adjust brightness and contrast: help your child find the right screen settings that are comfortable for them.
  • Reduce glare: use a matte screen and make sure they're using screens in proper lighting conditions to reduce uncomfortable glare.
  • Teach good posture! Poor posture contributes to muscle tightness and headaches that eye strain exacerbates.
  • Watch for signs of eye strain: sometimes children don't know when their vision is strained compared to other people.

Eye Health Products for Kids Available at Mountainside Medical Equipment

The Best Eye Health Products are Available at Mountainside Medical Equipment

When you need relief from dry, itchy, and watery eyes, visit Mountainside Medical Equipment! We've got the best in quality eye health products. Click this link to see the eye care products we have in stock!

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