Today’s kids are smart. So smart in fact that if you need help operating your smartphone, your 5 year old likely knows how to fix it. That said, your kids knowing how to operate a smartphone is probably not a good thing. Look, we get it — parenting is hard. Sometimes you just need a break, and nothing captures your child’s attention quite like a big shiny tablet, phone or TV. Don’t worry, it’s not just you — we see this all the time. Next time you’re out at a restaurant look around you and pay attention to how many kids are only willing to eat if their favorite show is streaming inches from their face. What many people don’t know is just how detrimental screen time can be for children’s eyes as well as their overall development.
How Screens Affect Children
We’ve all spent enough time in front of the TV or hunched over our laptops to know that after a few hours, our eyes feel tired, dry and maybe even red or irritated. Aside from potential blue light exposure and exposure to unnaturally vibrant screens, people tend to blink about 50% less when staring at screens. For children, whose eyes are less developed and less accustomed to the unnatural hues of a screen, short-term and long-term damage can be much worse. In fact, overexposure to screens will likely age your children’s eyes much quicker than when we were growing up.
To avoid too much eye damage, we recommend following guidelines such as the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes of screen time look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to reduce overall eye strain. Our children tend to have less self-control; therefore, it’s up to us to regularly remind them to take breaks between TV shows. Shorten the use of screen time to give your child’s eyes some rest. This method will help lessen cumulative eye damage caused by screens that can result in macular degeneration. Nearsightedness,or myopia, is a common symptom of too much screen usage as well.
Finally, children can become overstimulated when in front of a screen for too long. Overexposure can potentially cause circadian rhythm (sleep pattern) disturbances. Some studies even suggest that overuse of screens may put your children at a slightly higher risk (about 10% higher) of developing ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Posture Issues That Often Arise
Our posture habits are developed during our formative years as kids and teens. Screens are widely to blame for posture problems modern-day kids face. For starters, teens seem to have a high uptick in development of “text neck”, or a stress injury to the neck as a result of using smartphones and other handheld devices excessively,
Many of our chiropractor friends have grown quite concerned about the posture of present-day teens. This damage has accumulated over many years due to poor posture while consuming TV, utilizing laptops and texting on smartphones. The most common complaints chiropractors have heard from teens is neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain and frequent headaches.
For kids, poor posture such as slouching on computers can lead to a lifetime of issues as their little bodies are still developing and are highly malleable.
What Can We Do to Help?
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule and ingrain it into your children. For every 20 minutes of screen time try to look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds to reduce overall eye strain.
- Set rules around how much time screens can be used in the house, and use timers or dry-erase boards to stay on top of accumulated usage time throughout the day.
- Help your children adjust screen brightness according to the environment they are in. 100% brightness in a dark room is a no-go and 50% screen brightness in a well-lit room is an easy way to increase eye strain as well.
- Give your children paper books to read rather than e-readers or iPads.
- Want to watch the latest Disney movie with your kids? Consider watching it in 30 minute increments throughout the day or even over several days.
- Look for new and interesting ways to engage your children in activities that do not require screens.
- Emphasize the importance of good posture whenever you notice your child slouching.
- Between the ages of 5 and 13, take your children to get eye exams annually. This way your optometrist can keep an eye out for any developmental concerns. Overdue for an eye appointment? Contact us today to schedule yours.
We hope this information has been eye opening for you (no pun intended). We know this can feel like we’ve given you a whole new set of responsibilities and perhaps we’ve taken away your go-to method for a mental break within your home, but remember: Your children have long lives ahead of them. The last thing you want to be responsible for is having been complaisant on screen usage and as a result having your children deal with long-term eye health problems. Bottom line is that teaching your kids better habits while they’re young is a surefire way to prevent early onset eye-health issues.
If you or your children are due for their annual eye exams, contact us today to schedule an appointment.