Screens are an everyday part of your child's life. We can’t avoid them but we can help protect children from the harmful effects. The amount of screen time per day has been linked to developmental delays, harm to eye development, poor quality sleep, obesity, and more.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not have specific recommendations for the amount of screen time for children. That said, different organizations have created their own guidelines specifically targeting infants 0-24 months but fail to mention older ages.
In 2019 The World Health Organization released guidelines suggesting zero screen time for all children under 12 months old, and limited screen time for years to follow. In a similar publication The American Academy of Pediatrics suggested zero digital media use for children 18-24 months, with the exception of video chatting or educational media.
Nearsightedness or Myopia: Myopia is on the rise across the world. In the United States cases have nearly doubled since 1979. In Asia, 90% of teens and adults are nearsighted. A dramatic increase from previous generations.
A study published in 2019 in Ophthalmology the scientific journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology offers evidence that the worldwide increase in nearsightedness was caused by near work activity similar to phone or computer use. The study also found that spending time indoors, especially during childhood, can slow the progression of nearsightedness.
Digital Eye Strain: We have all felt the strain of spending too much time in front of the computer screen. Unlike Pink Eye, or glaucoma digital eye strain isn’t a single condition. The symptoms of digital eye strain are a spectrum that can include headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, or itchy eyes. Most symptoms are temporary but some could become permanent if not corrected early in children.
The best way for children to avoid digital eye strain is to practice the 20-20-20 rule. The rule goes like this. Every 20 minutes, look up at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. It’s also important to take longer breaks from screens and let the child's eyes relax and reset.
Sleep Disruption: The hype is real. Blue light causes all kinds of strange symptoms in children and adults. Chief among them is sleep disruption. By tricking the body, blue light limits the creation of melatonin, a brain chemical used to trigger sleep. Melatonin is typically created at night, when it is dark. The blue light of the screen tricks your child's brain into not making melatonin ontime. Limit screen time at least 1 hour before bedtime. This will give time for the body to adjust to nighttime.