My child is spending more time on digital devices, should I be worried about their eyes?

Children’s vision is an area of eyecare we are passionate about at Donner Optometrists. This blog is the third in a series of blogs we are posting about children’s vision over the next few weeks, from guest blogger Professor Nicola Logan. Nicola is Director of Research for the Optometry and Vision Science Research Group at Aston University in Birmingham.

“Is too much screen time bad for your kids’ eyes? The term screen time is often used to scare parents who use technology to distract or entertain their children but what about when our children are spending more of their time in front of a screen for schoolwork and that includes television, computers, tablets and smartphones.

The easy accessibility of digital devices means that young children are spending more time than ever before looking at screens. However, given current lockdown restrictions and with schools being closed to the majority of children, much of a child’s learning is taking place online. Added to this our child’s down time is often spent online, watching on demand programmes and gaming.

The 20-20-20 rule

Lengthy screen time can lead to tired and uncomfortable eyes. One simple explanation for this is the well-known fact that when we stare at screens our eyeblink rate goes down from around 14 blinks per minute to 8 blinks with close-up tasks. We can be a bit lazy with blinking in this scenario too as we don’t always manage a complete blink! All of this leads to tired, red eyes towards the end of the day. So the advice on digital device usage and other near work suggests that after 20 minutes of near work, look at least 20 metres away for at least a 20-second break to give the eyes a rest.

Do screens make my child’s vision worse?

Education and near work have been linked with the development of short-sightedness (where glasses are needed to see things like white boards at school or the T.V.) Research studies have investigated if digital screen time is a risk factor for myopia but they have not found any evidence to support this and the prevalence of short-sightedness was rising long before digital devices became popular.

However, we are usually indoors when using a digital screen. Research shows that children who spend time outdoors are less likely to develop short-sightedness even if they do use screens a lot of the time. We think it is the much brighter level of light that the eye receives when outdoors that is the important factor here. So while we need to embrace the technology to help learning, our advice is to get your child to take frequent breaks from screens and to get outside more for some daylight – something that might benefit us all.”

For more information on Children’s Eyecare at Donner Optometrists, visit our web page ,here, and our earlier ,blogs.