As technology continues to advance, the average household will most likely possess an electronic device. Technology is now everywhere and they are accessible to anyone, no matter how old they are. In fact, the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) conducted a survey that reports that about “41 percent of parents say [that] their kids spend three or more hours per day on digital devices. It also found that 66 percent of kids have their own smartphone or tablet.” With all of these time spent on our eyes being glued to electronic devices, can screen time actually have a negative effect on children’s eyes? As pediatric ophthalmologists, you are constantly dealing with children and the health of their vision. With that being said, how many times a week do you receive a patient who comes in with headaches and decreasing vision at such a young age? According to Everyday Health, researchers have conducted studies that show that “nearly 70 percent of U.S. adults experience digital eye strain as a result of the growing use of these devices.” With the advancement of technology in our daily lives, an ophthalmologist may ask themselves “what are the screen time effects on vision?” Can the culprit of computer vision syndrome be in our households this entire time?
Screen Time Effects on Vision: Can Too Much Screen Time Negatively Affect Children’s’ Eyes?
Computer vision syndrome (CVS) refers to eye problems causing by too much eye strain from staring at computers for long hours. As a matter of fact, the most common of ailments are eye strain or dry eyes. However, too much pressure on your eyes from staring at the monitor for hours on end can also lead to headaches, neck and back pain, as well as developmental problems such as social skills. This concludes that the screen time effects on vision are negative and deteriorates one’s eyes.
Eye Strain/Dry Eyes:
Dry eyes are the burning and itching sensation that you feel when you blink your eyes after spending hours staring at a screen without moisturizing your eyes. The longer that you spend not blinking, the less moisture that you are providing your eyes. As a result, this forced tension causes tension to your eye muscles, eventually causing other problems to arise such as headaches. Too much strain on your eyes can also cause other eye-related developmental problems, especially if you are exposed to this from a young age. Not only is this strain caused by staring too long at the screen without blinking, but it is also caused by the lights emitting from the screen and the long exposure that your eyes have from it.
When you are overwhelmed with work and stress, it can be easy to trigger a headache. However, did you know that too much screen time can also increase your likelihood of obtaining a headache? Headaches deriving from too much screen time are caused by the high contrast that your eyes are exposed to when staring at your electronic devices. In fact, the contrast of your devices emits various lights which cause tension in the muscles of your temples the longer that you spend time staring at them. Constant exposure to these lights in children can also cause premature aging in the eyes as well as increase your risk for age-related macular degeneration.
Back and Neck Pain:
Although the main source of your pain is focused on your eyes, spending too much time in front of a computer can also cause back and neck pain. Screen time effects vision physically through both your eyes along with your body. This is especially prominent in children and adolescents, which is why it is important to teach them about proper posture to prevent neck and back pain. This is pertinent for children as they are still in their developmental phase.
Lack of Social Skills:
Although these side effects may not be as visible as physical pain too much screen time can cause harm to a child’s developmental phase, especially their social skills if greatly exposed at a young age. For example, Psychology Today emphasizes that exposure how technology can cause children to have decreasing levels of their ability to concentrate and communicate with others. This stems from a lack of opportunity for children to process information themselves and develop critical thinking skills. In addition, the amount of time that they spend on their electronic devices serves as a substitute for them to socialize with other kids, causing them to develop issues with reading social cues and possibly leading to social behaviors in the future.
What You Can Do:
As ophthalmologists, advise your patients with guidance to help them avoid CVS. Incorporate these things into your sessions to help them understand screen time effects on vision:
- Utilize the 20/20/20 rule: spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away after spending 20 minutes in front of an electronic device
- Limit the amount of time that you spend on your electronic devices
- Encourage your children to engage in a variety of activities to promote social skills and breaks
- Teach your children about proper body posture and help them become aware of it
- Keep your eyes moist and relax your muscles
- Get your eyes regularly checked
- Adjust your electronic devices: resolution of the computer, font size, etc.