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How much digital screen time is OK for kids?

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Tips for avoiding computer vision syndrome

Kids and their smartphones go hand in hand, rarely to be separated nowadays. It’s typical to find children of all ages hiding under their covers at night with Alto’s Adventure, or texting instead of studying for tomorrow’s test. Ever wonder what all this digital screen time is doing to their vision? While totally banishing all screen time from your child’s day is unrealistic, eye care professionals recommend setting limits to keep eyes healthy. How much screen time is advised?

Our kids’ eye care specialists in Washington, D.C., explain about the hazards of spending too many minutes each day gazing at a digital screen, and how it can lead to computer vision syndrome.

Why is it unhealthy to look at digital screens?

Blue light is emitted by the digital screens of computers and all mobile devices. Over time, this type of shorter-wavelength, higher-energy visible light may be dangerous for your retina. Blue light has been linked to the development of certain eye diseases in the future, such as cataracts and macular degeneration.

Blue light is also emitted by the sun and is integral for regulating your body’s sleep-wake cycle. However, by adding hours of daily blue light exposure from digital tech (especially at the wrong times of day – such as late at night), it can disrupt a person’s normal rhythms. For kids, the resulting daytime drowsiness can lead to poor school performance, and an unregulated sleep schedule can lead to weight gain and health problems associated with obesity. Also, research has shown that people who don’t have a healthy pattern of activity and sleep are more likely to suffer from depression, lower levels of happiness, feelings of loneliness, and overall mood disorders.

Teens who spend excessive amounts of time using digital screens have also been found to be at a higher risk of developing symptoms of ADHD, according to a scientific study conducted in Los Angeles high schools.

How much time does your child spend using digital screens?

According to statistics compiled by Common Sense Media (a nonprofit dedicated to promoting safe technology and media for kids), the average young child in the U.S. spends the following amount of time using digital gadgets each day:

  • Children under 2 years old: 42 minutes
  • Children between 2 to 4 years old: 2.5 hours
  • Children between 5 to 8 years old: almost 3 hours

What problems can be caused by too much digital screen time?

These daily amounts are associated with a rise in kids experiencing the painful symptoms of computer vision syndrome. According to the Vision Council, 30% of parents attest that their kids suffer from the following symptoms:

  • Neck/shoulder pain
  • Headaches,
  • Dry or irritated eyes
  • Reduced attention span
  • Behavioral problems
  • Irritability

In addition to the discomfort of the above symptoms, all of them can also have a significant effect on your child’s social interactions and academic development.

Additionally, the progression of nearsightedness (myopia) has also been associated with computer vision syndrome and overexposure to electronic screens. Unbelievably, approximately half of all young adults are now nearsighted, in contrast to only 25% in the 1970s!

What’s the best way to prevent computer vision syndrome?

Limiting digital screen time for kids is an effective way to minimize blue light exposure, the risks of computer vision syndrome, and our child’s chances of developing eye health problems in the future. Institute a “no-screens” rule in your home that begins about an hour or two before bedtime. Or enforce a time limit on your child’s phone use; many time management apps are available to help with this mission.

If your kid wears prescription glasses, another effective way to block blue light is by purchasing eyeglasses with blue-light protection from our Washington, D.C., kids’ eye care collection. Several lens manufacturers produce lenses for glasses that filter out blue light. An anti-reflective blue light-blocking coating can also be applied to lenses.

If your child doesn’t need prescription eyewear, then we recommend investing in a protective blue light filter to apply to the surface of all digital screens. Many options are available, in addition to various blue-light filtering apps that you can download.

Book annual kids’ eye exams to keep watch on eye health and vision

Regular kids’ eye exams are the most dependable way to monitor your child’s ocular condition for any signs of a problem. During your appointment at Washington Eye Doctors, be sure to ask us for more information about the many ways to keep your child’s eyes safe from blue light.


At Washington Eye Doctors, we put your family's needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 202-335-5032 or book an appointment online to see one of our Washington, D.C. eye doctors.

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