How Screen Time Affects Your Child's Eyes

How Screen Time Affects Your Child's Eyes

1. Myopia (or Nearsightedness)
2. Dry Eye
3. Stye Development
4. Potential Link to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)

We lightly went over some of the most egregious effects of screen time on children here, but today we will be diving deeper into one specific side effect of excessive screen time with kids; how it effects their eyesight. While eye fatigue and headaches are common complaints, the potential long-term effects of screen time on developing eyes deserve a closer look. It is important to note that generally, vision experts think screen time does not permanently damage eyes. There is not yet a clear answer, but as researchers dive deeper and try to find concrete answers, here are some effects to consider:

Myopia (or Nearsightedness):

Excessive screen time has been linked to an increased prevalence of myopia, commonly known as nearsightedness. A 2020 study published in The National Library of Medicine found a link between increased screen time and myopia in children, depending on length of exposure. This condition makes it difficult to see objects far away, and can first manifest around school age.

Dry Eye:

Children's eyes are still under development, and the focusing muscles are constantly working to adjust between near and far objects. Staring at screens for extended periods can lead to reduced blinking, which can dry out the eyes and cause irritation. When our eyes aren't blinking enough, our tears are evaporating more, which means eyes aren't lubricated enough. Sometimes dry eyes causes blurry vision.

Stye Development:

Children engrossed in screens may blink less frequently, leading to dry eyes and irritation. This can also contribute to stye development, which are small, red bumps on the eyelid caused by clogged oil glands. These glands, located at the base of each eyelash, produce a thin, oily layer that helps keep our tears from evaporating and our eyes lubricated. When these glands become clogged, the oil can build up and form a painful bump. The exact cause of clogged oil glands isn't fully understood, but doctors know that screen time is a contributing factor.

Macular Degeneration - Lakeside Vision Center

Potential Link to Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD):

Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is a leading cause of vision loss in adults. While more research is needed, some studies suggest a possible link between excessive blue light exposure from screens and an increased risk of AMD later in life. Blue light exposure is a known risk factor for damage to the light-sensitive cells in the retina, and excessive screen time can significantly increase a child's cumulative blue light exposure.

It's important to note that the existing evidence for a link between screen time and AMD is not conclusive. However, it highlights the potential long-term effects of blue light on developing eyes.

Could Blue Light Glasses Help?

Blue light glasses have become a popular solution for adults experiencing these issues, but can they benefit children as well? Ultimately, it's not a magic fix. The Amercian Academy of Ophthalmology doesn't endorse blue light blocking glasses for patients. The best fix is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. When on screens for 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. 

If children complain about eye strain or headaches, blue light glasses may offer some relief. However, there is limited evidence in their effectiveness on children, (most studies focus on adults). Your best option to preserve your children's long term vision is either reducing screen time for kids or talking to your Pediatrician. 

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