Parents, Don't Lose Sight

A boy is looking at his cellphone and listening to his headphones while surrounded by Lego bricks on the floor. Think about how often your kids are in front of the TV, video games, mobile devices and tablets. Could all that screen time have long-term effects on the development of their sight?

According to the Parent Curve, which examines norms and numbers around the tough decisions that parents face, children ages 8 to 12 spend over four hours using screen media, and children ages 0 to 8 spend a little over two hours in front of device screens. Between mobile devices, tablets, e-readers, laptops, desktops and televisions, the possibility of being in front of some sort of screen for an extended period throughout the day is highly likely. Schools, businesses, even cars, are working to digitize our lives, which means more screen time for us and our eyes.

Think about the last time your child was in front of a screen for an extended period. Does your child ever complain about their eyes being sore, dry eyes or headaches? If so, it might be time to look at how often and how long your child is looking at a mobile device, tablet, gaming console or television screen.

The New Seeing Eye

During early childhood, focus, tracking depth perception and other aspects will continue to develop. Another important component for eye development is sunlight. Chances are those devices are being looked at inside.  Sunlight plays an important role in protecting vision, as it triggers dopamine, a neurotransmitter that keeps the eye from being too elongated during childhood. Over time, this may cause nearsightedness. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children between the ages of 2 and 5 spend no more than an hour per day on screens. For ages 6 or above, limits should be consistent. Talk to your child’s pediatrician if you have noticed your child experiencing vision problems. If you don’t have a pediatrician, call (888) 487-0183 or contact us to find a pediatrician or a pediatric specialist near you.

Screen Time Cutting Into Play Time

In addition to eyestrain, excessive screen time may also have an effect on a child’s social and physical development. The Centers for Disease Control is focusing parents on screen time versus lean time. This effort encourages parents to limit screen time to two hours per day, keeping a television out of your child’s bedroom and ensuring that kids have one hour of physical activity each day. Parents can also use mobile apps and parental controls to turn off certain devices or internet connections.

20-20-20 Rule

Limiting your child’s screen time can be difficult in the digital age, but applying the 20-20-20 rule may decrease eyestrain. The rule states that for every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you how much time your child is spending on any given device. Consider a different activity every 20 minutes, take a snack break or have them print their homework, when applicable.

Learn how screen time could affect adults