Whether you have kids yourself, grandkids or are around other children in your life, you will almost certainly be aware that children are spending more time on digital devices than ever before. Smartphones, computers, laptops, tablets and other devices all enable them to enjoy constant stimulation and sensory feedback, as well as connect with others around them and indeed, around the world. Nevertheless, this entertainment and connectivity doesn’t come without a price. Experts believe that the rapid increase in screen time among children has caused many kids to start to experience a range of eye and general health problems, starting with a rise in childhood nearsightedness. This means that it is also more important than ever to ensure that your child attends regular pediatric eye exams.
Looking at screens may seem harmless, particularly as they don’t cause us to experience any pain or obvious issues right away. However, prolonged and accumulative use can have a very real effect on our health and wellbeing. Your child is no exception. The main danger of digital devices stems from blue light.
Blue light waves are exceptionally short, high-energy beams of light that are emitted by all digital devices when they are in use. We all need some blue light in our lives, and we can achieve this naturally from the sun. A healthy amount of blue light helps to regulate our circadian rhythm, boost our cognitive ability and keep our mood stable. However, too much blue light can affect the balance that we usually receive, causing a range of unpleasant and even debilitating symptoms. Some of the effects of prolonged or excessive blue light exposure include:
- Dry, irritated eyes
- Red eyes
- Eye fatigue
- General fatigue and irritability
- Low mood
- Blurred vision
- Difficulty focusing
Children who use digital devices are also believed to be at greater risk of developing childhood myopia. Also known as nearsighted, this is where the patient can see nearby objects clearly, but those at a distance appear blurred and out of focus. Myopia is a progressive condition and most often develops in children between the ages of 8 and 14. However, because it is progressive, unless treatment is sought to help manage the condition, children are at greater risk of developing high myopia as they age, and, potentially the complications associated with it. This includes glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration.
Contrary to what many people believe, pediatric eye exams aren’t only valuable for children who have developed a problem with their eyes. They are also preventative in nature. This is because each appointment gives your eye doctor the opportunity to evaluate and assess the health and condition of your child’s eyes. This enables them to spot any developing issues early on, and before they can cause a serious problem for your child’s vision or health.
Your eye doctor is also full of practical advice when it comes to maintaining your child’s long-term vision and eye health. For example, they can teach you about the signs of digital eye strain and other conditions what would indicate that your child is potentially having too much screen time. Most eye doctors recommend the 20/20/20 rule. When using a digital device, patients are to look away from the screen every 20 minutes, for at least 20 seconds, and look at something that is at least 20 feet away. This can help the eyes to adjust and refocus. Of course, reducing screen time is recommended wherever possible.
If you’d like more advice on the increased importance of pediatric eye exams in relation to screen time, or to schedule an appointment for your child, contact the Eyes & Ears office at (817) 270-6400 today.