Digital devices have become synonymous with kids’ lives both in the classroom and at home — and they’re only expected to become more integrated into their daily routine. While such technology may streamline and boost learning, experts aren’t yet sure about the possible long-term effects on young eyes.
That said, parents and caregivers should watch for signs of digital eye strain in children. Symptoms can manifest as burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.
Effects of Digital Eye Strain
Beyond digital eye strain, some kids suffer from myopia, or nearsightedness. What causes this condition? Some researchers think focusing fatigue from excessive reading or holding a book or digital screen too close to your eyes for extended periods may increase the risk. However, the exact cause (or causes) remains an open question.
While there may be more questions than answers about myopia in children, we do know one thing. Perhaps one of the best things to tell your child to reduce his or her risk of myopia is, “Go outside and play!” That’s because research has shown that spending more time outside may help prevent or reduce the progression of nearsightedness in children.
For example, a two-year Australian study evaluated the effects of time spent outdoors on the development and progression of myopia among 6-year-olds and 12-year-olds randomly selected from 51 Sydney schools. The older children who spent more time outdoors reported less myopia at the conclusion of the study period than others in the study — even after adjusting for other factors. Children who performed the most amount of near work and spent the least amount of time outdoors reported higher rates of nearsightedness.
Blue Light Overexposure
So what is it about the effects of digital devices that make them a cause for concern? They are known to emit high-energy, short-wavelength, blue and violet light, which may affect vision and even prematurely age the eyes. It’s also believed that overexposure to blue light is a leading factor in eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions in later life such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
The lesson here? It’s best to encourage your child to develop a healthy relationship with digital technology and outdoor play. It’s also advised to help them develop good habits to protect their vision. For example, encourage them to take frequent visual breaks from their devices by practicing the 20-20-20 rule. Eye doctors recommend taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
The Importance of Eye Exams
Don’t forget about eye exams too. A school vision screening or a brief examination by a pediatrician can be inadequate, as vision problems in children can go undetected. An experienced optometrist can work with your medical team to accurately diagnose and treat a number of health conditions. With a preventive approach to care, you and your family can enjoy excellent eye health and vision at any age.
Join the 2020 Eye Care Revolution by scheduling your annual eye exam today!