While many parents limit their children’s screen time so that they can benefit from physical activity, there are other reasons why this may be important. Too much time spent staring at a screen can damage the eyes in various ways. These are some of the vision effects that you may not be aware of.
Most digital screens are backlit with blue light. While many adults consider this blue light to be generally unpleasant compared to natural light, there is more to be concerned about. Blue light exposure can damage retinas, and some of this damage may not be reversible. Before long-term damage develops, the retinas may become irritated, which can lead to vision disturbances. Your child’s eye doctor can determine the significance of this damage during an eye exam.
Your eyes work by constantly adjusting fine muscles that control eye movement and focus. While the screen is directly in front of your child, the eyes are constantly moving back and forth across the screen. More than that, focusing on an object that is a short distance away creates constant strain because the eyes must maintain focus. Ideally, your child should look away from the screen approximately every 20 minutes or even more frequently. This gives the eyes time to rest.
Many children who stare at a screen do not blink as frequently as they should. Keeping the eyes open for an unnaturally long amount of time can result in dry, red and irritated eyes. When eyes remain dry and irritated for most of the day on a consistent basis, damage will occur.
Over time, these various issues will combine to impact vision clarity. Many people of all ages who look at digital screens for long hours each day develop blurry vision. This may lead to headaches, accidents and other issues. Blurry vision generally must be corrected with glasses, contacts or surgery so that it does not impact quality of life.
How much screen time is too much? The experts do not universally agree on the answer to this question, but there is a general consensus that your child’s eyes need a break from the screen several times each hour and for at least a few minutes each time. In addition to protecting your child’s eyes in this way, schedule annual eye exams so that any vision issues can be identified and treated as soon as possible.