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How much digital screen time is OK for kids?

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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Is School Work Causing Computer Vision Syndrome in Your Child?

Eye health tips for students from our Washington, D.C. eye doctor

The start of fall means back-to-school for kids of all ages – and our team at Washington Eye Doctors wishes everyone a smooth and successful return to the classroom!

When your child enters school after a summer of outdoor fun, many of the summer’s vision hazards are left behind. Yet, that doesn’t mean all eye health risks are eliminated! Nowadays, the majority of learning is computer based – exposing students’ eyes to the pain and dangers of blue light and computer vision syndrome. Fortunately, a variety of helpful devices and smartphone apps are available to block blue light and keep your child’s vision safe and comfortable.

To help you safeguard your child’s vision for the upcoming semesters and the long term of life, our Washington, D.C. optometrist explains all about computer vision syndrome and how to prevent it.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome

It’s smart to familiarize yourself with the signs of computer vision syndrome. If your child complains about any of these common symptoms, you can help prevent any lasting vision damage by booking an eye exam with our Washington, D.C. eye doctor near you:

  • Eye irritation and redness
  • Neck, shoulder and back pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Dry eyes, due to reduced blinking
  • Headaches

Basics of blue light

Students spend endless hours in front of digital screens, be it a computer monitor, tablet, or smartphone. There is homework to be done, research to be conducted, texting with friends, and movies and gaming during downtime. All of this screen time exposes your child’s eyes to blue light.

Many research studies have demonstrated that flickering blue light – the shortest, highest-energy wavelength of visible light – can lead to tired eyes, headaches, and blurry vision. Additionally, blue light can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle, causing sleep deprivation and all the physical and mental health problems associated with it. As for your child’s future eye health, blue light may also be linked to the later development of macular degeneration and retinal damage.

How to avoid computer vision syndrome

Our Washington, D.C. eye doctor shares the following ways to block blue light and protect against computer vision syndrome:

  • Computer glasses, eyeglasses lenses treated with a blue-light blocking coating, and contact lenses with built-in blue light protection are all effective ways to optimize visual comfort when working in front of a screen. These optics reduce eye strain and prevent hazardous blue-light radiation from entering the eyes.
  • Practice the 20-20-20 rule; pause every 20 minutes to gaze at an object that’s 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This simple behavior gives eyes a chance to rest from the intensity of the computer or smartphone screen, preventing eye fatigue.
  • Prescription glasses can be helpful when using a computer for long periods – even for students who don’t generally need prescription eyewear. A weak prescription can take the stress off of your child’s eyes, decreasing fatigue and increasing their ability to concentrate. Our Washington, D.C. optometrist will perform a personalized eye exam to determine the most suitable prescription.
  • Moisturize vision with eye drops. One of the most common symptoms of computer vision syndrome is dry eyes, namely because people forget to blink frequently enough. Equip your child with a bottle of preservative-free artificial tears eye drops (available over the counter) and remind them to blink!
  • Blue light filters can be installed on a computer, smartphone, and all digital screens to minimize exposure to blue. A range of helpful free apps are also available for download.
  • Limit screen time for your child each day, or encourage breaks at least once an hour. Typically, the degree of discomfort from computer vision syndrome is in direct proportion with the amount of time your child spends viewing digital screens.
  • Set the proper screen distance. Younger children (elementary school) should view their computer at a half-arm’s length away from their eyes, just below eye level. Kids in middle school and high school should sit about 20 – 28 inches from the screen, with the top of the screen at eye level.

For additional info, book a consultation and eye exam at Washington Eye Doctors

When you and your child meet with our Washington, D.C. eye doctor, we’ll ask questions about your child’s school and study habits to provide customized recommendations on the most effective ways to stay safe from computer vision syndrome and blue light. Our optometrist stays up-to-date with the latest optic technologies and methods to prevent painful vision and eye health damage from using a computer, so you can depend on us for contemporary, progressive treatment.

Playing Outside Saves Kids’ Vision

Asian kids playing various sports outsideMyopia, or nearsightedness, is one of the most common refractive errors. A refractive error is what happens when light enters your eye and bends (refracts) improperly, which is usually the result of a misshapen cornea. As the light bends at an incorrect angle, it causes blurry vision.

People with myopia struggle with focusing on images from a distance, while viewing something near them remains clear. Glasses or contacts are usually worn to correct their vision. The lenses refract light correctly, which transmits the things you see to your brain so it can understand them, resulting in clear vision. However, these do not fix the vision problem itself, instead of becoming like permanent “eye-crutches” for their whole lives!”

Is Myopia Dangerous?

As a refractive error alone, myopia isn’t really a dangerous condition, but that doesn’t mean it’s without complications or concern, either. As it progresses, it can lead to a higher risk of other eye diseases like cataracts, glaucoma, or retinal detachment. For patients with more serious cases of myopia, decreased visual clarity or significant vision loss (even blindness!) can develop.

Wearing glasses or contact lenses isn’t always enough. What’s even more concerning is that high levels of myopia can show up later in life, which is why detecting it earlier is so important.

If you or a loved one is experiencing blurry vision or other symptoms of myopia, we can help. Speak to Dr. Michael Rosenblatt to schedule a personal consultation.

Myopia And Children

sad clown puppetMyopia is rising among the general population, but it seems to affect children in excessively high numbers. In fact, 1 in 10 American children between 5-17 years old have the condition, and 75% of children are diagnosed between 3 and 12 years old. Like facial features and even parts of your personality, nearsightedness is often inherited genetically. This means that if one or both parents have it, it’s likely that their child will also have it.

In school, this can be a real struggle. Reading, writing, seeing the board clearly, participating in class, doing homework, and after-school activities are a natural part of your child’s school years. Nearsightedness can negatively affect their learning and relationships with peers.

Screen Time And Higher Myopia

Did you know that increased screen time has been shown to increase the risk of myopia in children? Studies show that the more time kids spend indoors watching TV, on computer games, phones, or tablets, the higher the likelihood of developing myopia.

Why? Because when the eyes are consistently deprived of natural light, they can develop a sensitivity to it when they’re suddenly experiencing it. Think of how it feels when you’re in a dark room and someone suddenly turns the light on. Your eyes hurt and you feel momentarily blinded. The simplest way to treat this situation is by exposing the eyes to natural light on a regular basis.

Being Outdoors Can Help Manage Children’s Myopia

Kids Playing Ball OutsideNow the good news: if too much indoor time is a problem, then it’s time to send your kids outside!

Despite what you’ve heard about the dangers of too much sun, a healthy amount of natural sunlight is a good thing. The sun’s natural ultraviolet (UV) rays contain Vitamin D. In moderate doses, Vitamin D is good for you. Medical professionals believe that these rays can actually change the shape of the cornea. Since a misshapen cornea is what causes myopia to begin with, this serves as a simple way to counter-balance its effects.

Natural light is brighter than light bulbs and lamps. Being outside can help your child’s eyes become used to natural light, balancing out the excessive time spent inside. As if this wasn’t enough, time spent outside doesn’t cost a thing. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Make the time fun by playing at a park, skateboarding, having a barbeque or picnic – the options are endless!

As parents, you want what’s best for your kids. Spending time outside, together with other treatment methods, can improve your child’s myopia.

Early diagnosis is critical for managing myopia and slowing down its progression. Contact The Myopia Management Center At Washington Eye Doctors and let us help your children enjoy clear vision and excellent eye health.

Is Too Much Screen Time Dangerous For Your Kids?

Screen Time Pros and Cons

Whether it is homework, email, gaming, chatting with friends, searching the web or watching Youtube, kids these days seem to have an endless number of reasons to be glued to a screen. Many parents out there are wondering how bad this can be for their kids and whether they should be limiting screen time.

There are certainly benefits to allowing your kids to use digital devices, whether it is educational, social or providing a needed break. However, studies show that excessive screen time can have behavioral consequences such as irritability, moodiness, inability to concentrate, poor behavior, and other issues as well. Too much screen time is also linked to dry eyes and meibomian gland disorders (likely due to a decreased blink rate when using devices), as well as eye strain and irritation, headaches, back or neck and shoulder pain, and sleep disturbances. Some of these computer vision syndrome symptoms are attributed to blue light that is emitted from the screens of digital devices.

Blue light is a short wavelength, high-energy visible light that is emitted by digital screens, LED lights and the sun. Studies suggest that exposure to some waves of blue light over extended periods of time may be harmful to the light-sensitive cells of the retina at the back of the eye. When these cells are damaged, vision loss can occur. Research indicates that extreme blue light exposure could lead to macular degeneration or other serious eye diseases that can cause vision loss and blindness. Studies show that blue light also interferes with the regulation of the the body’s circadian rhythm which can have a disruptive impact on the body’s sleep cycle. Lack of quality sleep can lead to serious health consequences as well.

Beyond these studies, the long term effects of blue light exposure from digital devices are not yet known since this is really the first generation in which people are using digital devices to such an extent. While it may take years to fully understand the impact of excessive screen time on our eyes and overall health, it is probably worth limiting it due to these preliminary findings and the risks it may pose. This is especially true for young children and the elderly, who are particularly susceptible to blue light exposure.

How to Protect the Eyes From Blue Light

The first step in proper eye protection is abstaining from excessive exposure by limiting the amount of time spent using a computer, smart phone or tablet – especially at night, to avoid interfering with sleep. Many pediatricians even recommend zero screen time for children under two.

The next step would be to reduce the amount of blue light entering the eyes by using blue light blocking glasses or coatings that deflect the light away from the eyes. There are also apps and screen filters that you can add to your devices to reduce the amount of blue light being projected from the screen. Speak to your eye doctor about steps you can take to reduce blue light exposure from digital devices.

As a side note, the sun is an even greater source of blue light so it is essential to protect your child’s eyes with UV and blue light blocking sunglasses any time your child goes outside – even on overcast days.

The eyes of children under 18 are particularly susceptible to damage from environmental exposure as they have transparent crystalline lenses that are more susceptible to both UV and blue light rays. While the effects (such as increased risk of age-related macular degeneration) may not be seen for decades later, it’s worth it to do what you can now to prevent future damage and risk for vision loss.

 

Is Your Teen Ready for Contacts?

Many teens who wear glasses are eager to try out contact lenses for convenience, fashion or to just provide another option for vision correction. For teens who feel self-conscious in their glasses, contact lenses can be a way to improve self-esteem. Young athletes and swimmers find that contacts are an excellent option for sports, especially as younger kids are becoming involved in travel sports and club teams outside of school.

While contacts might appear to be the perfect solution for teens that need corrective eyewear, they are a convenience that comes with a lot of responsibility so it’s not a decision to take lightly. Improper use of contact lenses can cause severe discomfort, infections, irritation and, in the worst cases, eye damage or even permanent vision loss.

“With Privilege Comes Responsibility”

Contact lenses are a medical device and should always be treated as such. They should never be obtained without a valid contact lens prescription from an eye doctor, and always purchased from an authorized seller. Among other issues, poor fitting contact lenses bought from illegitimate sources have been known to cause micro-abrasions to the eyes that can increase the risk of eye infection and corneal ulcers in worst case scenarios.

Particularly when it comes to kids and teens, it is best to purchase contact lenses from an eye doctor as they possess the expertise to properly fit contact lenses based on the shape of the eye, the prescription, the lifestyle of the child and other factors that may influence the comfort, health and convenience of contact lens use.

There is some debate over the recommended age for kids to start considering contact lenses. While some experts will say the ideal age is between 11 and 14, there are many responsible children as young as 8 or even younger who have begun to successfully use them. When children are motivated and responsible, and parents are able to ensure follow-up to the daily regimen, earlier contact lens use can be a success. A good measure of whether your child is responsible enough to use contacts is whether they are able to keep their room clean, or maintain basic hygiene like brushing teeth regularly and effectively.

When you think your child might be ready, you should schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for a contact lens exam and fitting. The process will take a few visits to perform the exam, complete a training session on how to insert, remove and care for lenses, then to try out the lenses at home and finally reassess the comfort and fit of the contacts. You may try out a few varieties before you find the best fit.

What Kind of Contact Lens Is Best for My Teen?

The good news is that contact lens use has become easier than ever, with safety, health and convenience being more accessible as technology improves. There are a number of options including the material used to make the lenses (soft or rigid gas permeable), the replacement schedule (if disposable, how often you replace the pair – daily, weekly, biweekly or monthly) and the wear schedule (daily or extended overnight wear).

Single use, daily disposable lenses have become very popular, particularly with younger users, because they are easy to use, requiring no cleaning or storing, and therefore they reduce the risk of infection and misuse. You simply throw out the lenses at night and open a new one in the morning. Your eye doctor will be able to help you and your teen determine the best option.

Tips for Contact Lens Wearers

Following are some basic contact lens safety tips. If your teen is responsible enough to follow these guidelines, he or she may be ready for contact lens use:

  1. Always follow the wearing schedule prescribed by your doctor.
  2. Always wash your hands with soap before applying or removing contact lenses.
  3. Never use any substance other than contact lens rinse or solution to clean contacts (even tap water is a no-no).
  4. Never reuse contact lens solution
  5. Follow the eye doctor’s advice about swimming or showering in your lenses
  6. Always remove your lenses if they are bothering you or causing irritation.
  7. Never sleep in your lenses unless they are extended wear.
  8. Never use any contact lenses that were not acquired with a prescription at an authorized source. Never purchase cosmetic lenses without a prescription!

Contact lens use is an ongoing process. As a child grows, the lens fit may change as well, so it is important to have annual contact lens assessments. Plus, new technology is always being developed to improve comfort and quality of contact lenses.

Contact lenses are a wonderful invention but they must be used with proper care. Before you let your teen take the plunge into contact lens use, make sure you review the dangers and safety guidelines.

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