As we progress further into a digital age where everyone relies upon smartphones, tablets, televisions, and other forms of technology for entertainment, many parents are beginning to become concerned about whether exposure to screen time will affect their children’s eyesight. Living in a modern era where it is not uncommon for parents to allow their young children and toddlers to use iPhones or iPads, you may wonder if this early exposure will have detrimental effects on their vision in the future. If your child is particularly attached to using technology, here are some factors to keep in mind when monitoring usage.
Understanding the Effects of Too Much Screen Time
Extended exposure to screen time can lead to a number of issues such as eye discomfort, blurred vision, headaches, dry eyes, fatigue, and digital eye strain known as computer vision syndrome (CVS). Although the term CVS associates this syndrome with the use of computers, it actually refers to a variety of vision-related concerns that occur as the result of using your computer, tablet, or smartphone. The effects resulting from CVS are fairly short-term, but if preventative action is not taken, the discomfort can become recurring.
Children with CVS may spend shorter periods of time using digital devices or may express that they are only able to use these devices for a small length of time before they begin feeling uncomfortable. Since CVS can also impact a child’s ability to focus, some children may begin to squint when looking at the screen because they are struggling to focus on the images shown.
How Much Is Too Much?
Parents commonly wonder how much time their children should really be spending on a smartphone, computer, or tablet. Ideally, screen time should be limited to only two hours per day for your children or adolescents. While it may be easier to manage your child’s energy by allowing them to play with digital devices for extended periods of time, the healthier choice is to encourage them to go play outside during these years when their vision is continually developing.
Children that are under the age of two years old should not have any screen time. At these younger stages, your child’s eyesight has not developed enough for tracking motion or depth perception. Although these abilities will develop over the first year of life, exposure to screen time during this period is deemed unsafe.
How to Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome
If you want to ensure that your child doesn’t experience CVS and other vision concerns, the best choice is to visit an eye doctor. An eye exam will provide you with more insight into your child’s vision and catch potential problems early. If prolonged use of computers and other devices is inevitable, you can consider purchasing special eyewear that will help reduce strain while your child views the screen. Vision therapy is another option worth consideration if you would like to help your child strengthen their focusing power.
However, don’t underestimate the importance of simply monitoring your child’s technology usage. Provide your children with recommended timed breaks, such as a ten-minute break from screen time every hour. Use a filter on screens to help reduce any glare and aim to keep screens at least 20-24 inches from your child’s face. Finally, you may also want to consider enforcing the 20/20/20 rule. Encourage your child to take a break every 20 minutes and then stare at something 20 feet away for around 20 seconds. This will help to refresh their eyes and may reduce the likelihood of CVS.