This is a tough topic to tackle since on the one hand, we don’t want our children falling behind on the technological curve when compared to other kids. But on the other hand, how much screen time is too much and could it be harming things like their eyesight?
Some studies are making an association with ultraviolet and blue light and the development of a number of different eye conditions. When we think of ultraviolet light, we first may first imagine the harmful rays emitting from the sun, but it also includes light that comes from video display screens. These light sources have been associated with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataracts, conditions are usually seen in older generations but both can be present in children in some rare cases.
Fatigue and strain:
Our children seem to spend an inordinate amount of time with today’s technology, from computer screens at school to game stations at home. They seem to be constantly on their smartphones, laptops, tablets and other handheld devices. Because of this, they can experience the same type of problems their parents are facing at work from staring at a computer screen all day.
Some of these dilemmas include eye strain and fatigue, but a growing number of them are getting vision-related problems related to the use of these devices. Eye surgeon Dr. David Allamby, founder of the Focus Clinic in London, has been studying the types of effects these screens are having on our children’s eyesight. Research shows a 35% increase in advanced myopia (also known as nearsightedness) in youngsters since smartphones were first introduced in 1997.
Nowadays, children are embracing today’s technology at even younger ages, and often we’re seeing toddlers using things like tablets and smartphones. In addition to an increased risk of developing myopia, similar research shows that children under three years of age are also more prone to contract astigmatism or amblyopia, both defects in vision that cause distorted images. Eye care professionals are recommending that parents keep these devices away from toddlers.
The AOA (American Optometric Association) is warning parents with a “Back To School” checklist of things they should be monitoring when it comes to children and their eyesight. Some of these signs that could be an indication of a possible vision problem include posing some important questions to our children or noticing changes in their behavior:
1. Do they get frequent headaches at school when doing homework or reading?
2. Are their grades lower in visually strong subjects like reading and learning math?
3. Do they seem to have a short attention span, become easily fatigued, or lose focus?
4. Are they taking too many breaks when doing homework or reading?
5. Do they have trouble focusing on a book?
6. Are they following the words with their fingers when reading?
If any of these are conditions are present, please take your child to see an optometrist as soon as possible. Even though comprehensive eye examinations are only recommended every two years, annually for those who already wear corrective lenses, if they’re exhibiting any of these problems, they may be visually related and easily treatable.
At the very least parents should consider limiting the number of times children should be spending on their screens and recommending other activities that don’t involve technology. When many of us were kids, we weren’t allowed to watch too much television and the same is true today when it comes to computers, smartphones, and other handheld devices.
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