The past year has been a difficult one, to say the least. With increased restrictions, many children are spending more time online than they would otherwise. I have also found more parents asking: “how much screen time should my children have?” Keep on reading, because we will break it all down for you! In this blog post we will outline the negative effects of too much screen time, and the appropriate amount of time children should spend in front of a screen.
Why Is Too Much Screen Time Bad For My Child’s Eyes?
Many parents are well aware of the negative effects too much screen time can have on their children mentally and physically, but oftentimes the consequential effects on their eyes are overlooked. Too much screen time can have the following effects on our little ones:
- Myopia (Nearsightedness) – Children who are exposed to more screen time spend less time outside, which is a critical part of developing eyes. The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) website’s article on “Screen Use for Kids” outlines how studies have shown a link between increased myopia rates in children due to increased indoor time. So what does this mean? Children are spending too much time inside altogether, whether it is in front of a screen or otherwise.
- Sleep Disruptions – Going to bed on time can feel like a battle for parents, throw in screens and your child’s circadian rhythm could be affected making their natural sleeping/awakening schedules off-balance. Sleep issues due to screen time arise because of something called blue light. Screens emit blue light, which is also something the sun produces and helps our bodies regulate our circadian rhythm. Of course, the sun rises and falls as nature intends, but blue light from screens does not follow such a pattern. Consequentially, children who use a tablet or computer before bed may experience sleep issues.
- Digital Eye Strain – Starring at a screen for too long can result in red itchy eyes, dry eyes, blurry vision and a host of other things which make your vision uncomfortable. Eye Strain can also cause issues with other parts of the body outside of the eyes, such as neck and should pain.
How Much Screen Time is Appropriate?
Given that screens are a part of our daily life, it is impossible to avoid them altogether. Nor should they be, as they provide positive benefits like language and reading development. However, time spent on screens should be monitored. The Fraser Health Authority suggest the following guidelines:
- 2 years and younger no screen time
- 2-5 years of age, less than 1 hour per day
- Older than 5 years of age, less than 2 hours per day
Helping Your Child Foster Good Screen Habits
Helping your child develop good screen habits young will help them their entire life. Good screen habits include, but are not limited to:
- Limiting time spent online
- Use of the 20-20-20 rule
- Reminding young ones to blink
- Avoiding screens close to bedtime
- Holding good posture while using a screen
Lastly, being a good role model is important. Show your child how to use screens appropriately. Many adults are guilty of overusing screens, which also negatively affects their eyes. Because we live in a digital age, it is important we all use good habits when it comes to our digital devices. Doing so will ensure your eyes are healthier and happier for it!
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