Aren’t smartphones and tablets great? A few weeks ago, I heard some cool music playing on a Facebook post. I asked my phone’s personal assistant to identify it and it did. Let’s not forget computers either. How did we get anything done before the Internet came along? If you need information on something, it’s just a click away. Need to buy something? If it isn’t on eBay, Amazon, Craigslist, and you can’t find it via a search engine, chances are it doesn’t exist.
Of course, spending too much time in front of the computer can lead to eye strain, and staring at a smartphone can lead to tech neck. Yet, children under the age of 18 are heavy users of technology. How does screen time affect children’s vision?
Like adult users of computers, kids can experience discomfort, blurry vision, headaches, just to name a few. After staring at a screen for long periods of time, children can experience trouble focusing on objects at a distance and have poor tear distribution. In addition, even if a child experiences these problems, he or she might simply think that everyone experiences them and not say anything.
Another thing that leaves children vulnerable is that most computer work stations are built for adults, so they have to look up at higher angle, which leads to both neck and eyestrain. They also have trouble reaching the keyboard, and that can lead to hand and arm discomfort. In addition, most digital screens are backlit and emit blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. This disrupts the sleep patterns and causes an artificial feeling of wakefulness, which in turn causes eye strain.
One way to deal with eye strain is to have children and adults, for that matter, follow the “20-20-20 Rule.” Every 20 minutes that a person is on the computer, he or she is to look away from the screen and at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more.
Of course, technology is evolving, and it isn’t just two dimensional (2D) games and applications to worry about. Now there are three dimensional (3D) games and applications. With those in the mix, there are additional problems. While there are no long-term studies on the effects of 3D movies and games, many people have reported headaches and motion sickness while watching 3D movies. The reason why some people have problems with 3D is because they either have trouble with focusing, depth perception, or they are overwhelmed with all the visuals.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that entertainment screentime be limited to two hours a day for children ages 3 to 18 and no screentime for children under 2 years-old. Since too much screentime has an effect on the health and well-being of children, it is important for them to interact with others kids (and parents) through face to face play and sports.
While technology isn’t going away, it can be managed. Limiting the amount of screentime isn’t just good for kids. It also helps adults’ eyesight and sense of well-being.