Our world is changing and recommendations for parenting are changing with it. The American Association of Pediatrics used to recommend no screen time for children under the age of two. Now those recommendations have changed, but parents are still worried about how the increased screen time is affecting their children’s vision.
How Screen Time Affects the Eyes
There are three ways that extended screen time affects a person’s eyes, regardless of age.
Eye fatigue. Your eyes are a complicated structure and require six muscles to function. These eye muscles become fatigued after extended use. Children are especially prone to this because they may be using their devices in areas of low light, increasing the strain on their eyes.
Blurry vision. Staring at a screen for extended periods causes the eye to lock up, called accommodation spasm. Studies suggest that work that is done closer to your face can cause myopia. This can include reading or screen time.
Dry eyes. When you’re concentrating on a screen, your eyes tend to blink less often. This leads to dry, itchy eyes. Severe dry eyes can affect overall vision.
What Parents Can Do
There are a number of ways parents can help children from straining their eyes too much, while still balancing a healthy use of screens. Children in school cannot escape screens as computer work is becoming increasingly more common. At home, follow these steps to give your children’s eyes a break.
Monitor screen time. Set up a family media use plan to get your entire family on board.
Get enough sleep. Follow the current recommendations for your child’s age to determine how much sleep they should be getting. The AAP recommends no screen time in the hour before bed.
Exercise. Physical play is both a great teacher and a great boost to overall health.
Take frequent breaks. Breaks are important for your eyes to re-moisturize.
Make annual eye appointments. The sooner a problem is detected, the sooner you can receive help for your child.
Balancing it All
Some parents may feel that it’s impossible to limit screen time with all the demands on their children. Screens are used in school, at home, and even in the doctor’s office. Don’t beat yourself up if some days your children are on screens more than others. Just try to keep the overall screen time to a healthy limit and get back on track the next day. Remember, modeling is the best teacher and that goes for technology as well.