The average American adult will spend around 10 hours a day on some sort of screen like a TV, computer, or cell phone. The average child between 8 and 18 spends around 7.5 hours on a screen according to the CDC. With all this screen use, is it harming our eyes, and what can you do to ensure you and your kids grow up with healthy eyes?
The most common complaint with prolonged screen time is eye strain and dry eyes. When we use a computer, or cell phone, we tend to stare at it and blink less. You will actually blink around half as much when using a screen. Keeping your eyes open will prevent the normal turnover of tears and cause the cornea to dry out. This can cause blurry vision, dryness or gritty feelings, and eye strain. When we use a cell phone, we tend to hold it much closer than if we were to read a book. This leads to an increased requirement to focus and cross our eyes to see the device.
The good news, is that even though this all sound bad for you, it doesn’t really cause any long term damage. You can feel intermittent near strain or headaches, but removing yourself from the screen will be the best treatment you can give yourself. The best thing you can do is follow the 20/20/20 rule. This means, every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break, and look at something 20+ feet away. This will naturally give your eyes and tear film a chance to reset. Looking at screens will not worsen your glasses prescription in the long run.
For children, there are guidelines that have been outlined by the Academy of Pediatrics. It is inappropriate for any child under 18 months old to have any sort of screen time. From ages 2-5, it is recommended to limit screen time to an hour or less per day. For kids that are over 6 years old, it is at the parent’s discretion to how much screen time they are allowed. The easiest way to limit your child’s screen time, is to limit yours with them. Don’t let them use their phones at dinner, and don’t focus your dinner around the TV. Cultivate conversation and encourage normal socialization.
There are glasses that claim that they help with eye health by filtering out blue light. There has been no significant study to say that blue light emitted from screens do any damage to your eye. In fact, the sun is where we get the most intense blue light into our eyes. Simply wearing sunglasses when you go outside will protect your ocular health much more than any blue light blocking glasses. There has been one study that showed that people who used blue blocking glasses after 6:00pm had better sleep than people who didn’t. This is thought to be because blue light inhibits the production of melatonin, which helps you sleep at night. It is recommended to limit or eliminate screen use around an hour before bed.
Limiting screen use is a good thing to do, not for your eyes, but for your overall health. If you limit screen time for yourself and your kids, it will encourage a healthier and more active life. The screens are not damaging your eyes in the long run, but they may be affecting your sleep and preventing a healthy active lifestyle.