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Digital Eye Strain, Blue Light, and Children's Vision

Now more than ever, children are spending more time on computers, tablets, smartphones, and in front of the television. All those hours spent scrolling or staring at a screen can have a negative impact on your child’s visual, mental, and physical health. As a parent, here is what you need to know.

The Alberta Association of Optometrists reports that 28 percent of parents say their child experiences symptoms during or after using digital devices. However, some children don’t complain or show signs of discomfort, so digital eye strain can be difficult to detect.

Too much screen time can lead to digital eye strain. Digital eye strain describes a group of symptoms that result from prolonged use of a digital screen. Symptoms include headaches, blurred vision, light sensitivity, eye irritation, double vision, excessive tearing, burning eyes, excessive blinking or squinting, and dry eyes.

Too much screen time can negatively affect a childs overall well-being. Studies have shown that moderate to high use of screen time can lead to a variety of physical and psychological issues such as anxiety, depression, poor posture, sleep issues, weight gain, reduced attention span, poor behavior, and vision problems.

Prolonged blue light exposure can have adverse effects. Blue light is a part of the color spectrum.  When you combine all colors of the spectrum, you get ‘white light’ or sunlight. Sources of white light include the sun (primary source), LED and fluorescent lighting, and electronic and digital devices.

However, the blue light is of more concern because it has higher energy compared to the other colors, and our eyes are poor blue light blockers. Almost all blue light passes through the front of the eyes and reaches the retina. Blue light exposure increases alertness by suppressing the release of melatonin, making it harder for you to fall asleep. This can disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle (circadian rhythm). Excessive use of digital screens increases blue light exposure because they are in close proximity to the eyes and used for long periods of time.

How can you protect your child from digital  eye strain?

  • Limit the amount of total screen time, especially for younger children.

  • Stop using digital devices and TV screens two to three hours before bed.

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule. View the screen for 20 minutes, stop and take a 20 second or more break and look at something at least 20 feet away.

  • Lubricate eyes with artificial tears three to four times per day and practice proper blinking.  Pause and take full blinks often while using your device.

  • Use a warm to hot compress for 20 minutes daily to help alleviate symptoms.

  • Maintain proper posture with screen use. Ideally, the screen should be an arm’s length away and slightly below eye level. 

  • Get proper fitting, good quality blue light blocking eye glasses, which block the harmful blue light from sunlight and digital devices. These filters can be added to prescription and non-prescription glasses.

  • Have your child’s eyes checked regularly by an optometrist. Alberta Health Care covers yearly eye exams for children up to 18 years of age. 

Dr. Alisha Adatia is the lead optometrist and CEO of Blink Eyewear. With three locations serving the Calgary area, Blink Eyewear’s highly-trained team of optometrists and opticians are ready to serve every member of your family from infant to senior using the most advanced technologies and latest products. For more information, visit blinkeyewear.ca. Follow on Facebook, facebook.com/blinkeyewearoptometry, and Instagram @blinkeyewearyyc.

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