Digital multimedia devices like smartphones and tablet computers give us the means to offer new ways to engage and teach our children. Children between the ages of 5 to 16 can spend almost 6 hours of screen time each day when they engage with their televisions, mobiles, or tablets.
New studies, however, indicate that exposing young children to so many digital devices at an early age can lead to a host of developmental issues.
Why Is Screen Time Bad For Your Child’s Eyes?
High energy, short-wavelength, blue light is scattered easier than any other visible light and is not easily focused. This unfocused visual noise reduces contrast and strains the eye.
Digital devices emit high levels of blue light and exposure to this can lead to eye-related diseases like “Digital Eye Strain” in the long run.
Excessive exposure to blue light from digital devices can not only harm your child’s developing vision but can also pose multiple health risks in the long run.
What Are the Health Hazards of Electronic Devices for Your Kid’s Eye Health?
Children who spend too much time (typically more than 3 hours a day) are at a high risk of experiencing the following eye-related problems:
Computer Vision Syndrome
Computer Vision Syndrome, or Digital Eye Strain, is a range of eye-related problems caused due to long periods of digital screen exposure. Kids who spend too much time on their gadgets, especially in wrong postures or lighting, have a high risk of experiencing eye strain at some point. The LED on devices emits the highest amount of blue light which is potentially harmful to eye health.
Children who spend too much time viewing on digital screens and exerting their eyes may develop a condition called myopia, or near-sightedness. It is a condition occurring due to an elongation of the eyeball, making it difficult for light coming into the eye to focus correctly on the retina. This results in near-sightedness, that is, difficulty viewing objects at a distance.
Paediatric Dry Eye Disease
Increasing use of smartphones and other digital devices have led to kids developing dry eye disease (DED). Studies suggest that a lower blink rate during long exposure to gadgets lead to faster evaporation of the lubricating tear film, leading to itchy dry eyes. Additionally, incomplete blinks (when the upper eyelid doesn’t touch the lower eyelid) don’t ensure an even spread of the tear film across the ocular surface, thereby leading to dry eyes.
Kids lose track of time while they are engrossed in playing or watching something on their digital screens. Our eyes require a break from close-up focus, especially when the blue light from the screens cause a glaring effect and strain on the eyes. This leads to eye fatigue and loss of focus. It is usually a short-term, minor issue and the eyes adjust themselves again within a few hours.
Prolonged exposure to digital screens has other health implications for your child. It can:
- Disrupt sleeping patterns
- Hamper cognitive development
- Increase the risk of obesity
- Trigger neck and back pain
How Can You Limit Your Child’s Screen Time?
Although the idea of your child keeping himself or herself entertained for hours, while you catch up on that much-needed sleep or pending chores, is inviting, it can have multiple adverse effects on your child’s health.
Here are a few simple tips you can employ to limit your kid’s screen time:
- Set a Schedule: Set timings for your kid and get him used to it. Divide screen time equally throughout the day with regular breaks and intervals.
- Have Cheat Days: Give your child a day off, once in a while, to binge-watch their favourite cartoons or videos. This lets them know that is a reward for following a schedule.
- Don’t Let it Become a Habit: Always ask your child to justify the use of a gadget. They shouldn’t turn it on simply because they’re bored or out of habit.
- Indulge in Extracurricular Activities: Encourage your children to be outdoors, learn a new skill offline, or simply do something productive. Spend time with them and ensure they’re enjoying their time offline. That way, they don’t resort to television or the mobile/tablet to seek entertainment.