Remember when the most screen time you’d get during the school day was playing a game of Oregon Trail? These days, kids spend so much of their lives in front of computer, smartphone and television screens—both at home and at school. In fact, research shows that 8- to 18-year-olds consume an average of 7 hours and 11 minutes of screen media per day!
With kids everywhere beginning a new school year, parents should be aware of the effects of excessive screen time so that they can implement strategies for protecting their little ones’ eyes.
Digital Screens & Vision Problems
Have you ever noticed that when you spend a few hours staring at a digital screen, your eyes start to feel tired and strained, maybe a little dry and blurry? These are all common effects of excessive screen time.
Digital screens are a source of blue light, exposure to which can cause digital eye strain, retina damage and possibly even age-related macular degeneration.
Protecting Children’s Eyes from Digital Screens
While it’s impossible—and frankly unnecessary—to expect any kid to avoid digital screens altogether, there are some simple ways to avoid digital eye strain and protect those young eyes. Here’s what parents and kids can do:
Monitor screen time. Beyond eye damage, excessive screen time among children is associated with obesity, lack of sleep, problems at school and behavior issues. A general rule of thumb is to cap entertainment screen time at two hours per day. This gives your little one’s eyes a break from screens and ensures that they don’t miss out on other important things like exercise and sleep.
Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Speaking of giving the eyes a break, are you familiar with the 20/20/20 rule? According to Medical News Today, this rule, designed by optometrist Jeffrey Anshel, “says that for every 20 minutes spent looking at a screen, a person should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.” It’s an easy way for your child to remember to take frequent breaks.
Adjust screen positioning. The way you position your child’s screens can make a notable difference in digital eye strain. For example, computer screens should be positioned slightly below eye level, as staring up at a screen requires the eyes to open wider and work harder. Mobile devices, on the other hand, should be held at minimum 25 centimeters from the face. There’s even an app that can help with this!
Wear blue-light blocking glasses. Blue-light blocking glasses (also commonly referred to as “computer glasses”) are really hip right now—and with good reason! They help reduce digital eye strain and decrease visual stress by filtering out blue light. Real Shades recently came out with our own line of affordable computer glasses called Screen Shades, available in a variety of sizes and colors your little one will love.
Schedule regular eye exams. Even if you follow all these tips, your child may still experience vision problems—whether related or unrelated to digital screens. The best way to stay on top of their vision health is to schedule routine eye exams.
It’s a digital world we live in, and there’s no stopping that—for better or worse! But with the right strategies in place, you can do everything in your power to protect your child’s eyes from the effects of digital screens. Good luck, and have a great school year!