With the rise of screen time by our kids, optometrists are warning parents about the dangers to the visual system, sleep, and overall wellbeing.
Today’s families have to manage the increased use of digital media in children’s lives. While technology provides many benefits such as easy and immediate access to information and communication tools, it also comes with risks. The excessive use of digital media has led to children experiencing visual fatigue and decreased visual efficiency.
According to a report by Common Sense Media, teenagers (age 13-18) spend an average of 9 hours daily on entertainment media, while tweens (age 8-12) spend 6 hours daily. These statistics have increased 17% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged use of digital devices may lead to children becoming addicted to device use, social media, and gaming, leading to real, serious consequences in the pediatric population. In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized gaming disorder as a disease, and MRI studies have shown that gaming and smartphone addictions change the physical structure of the brain, much like drug and gambling addictions.
As optometrists, we understand that the accommodative (focusing) system's strength is age-dependent. Excessive use of the accommodative system without proper visual hygiene can weaken it, leading to diagnoses of accommodative insufficiency. This includes reduced visual acuity, low amounts of against-the-rule astigmatism, asthenopia, headaches, and fatigue.
The excessive use of digital media also puts stress on the binocular vision system, which involves two eyes working together to form a single image. Screen-based activity stimulates visual processing more heavily than even the sensory processing systems, interrupting the development of binocular vision, leading to binocular vision dysfunction in the form of convergence excess or insufficiency.
Clinical studies reveal that prolonged use of handheld digital devices leads to a closer viewing distance, increasing the likelihood of accommodative and binocular vision issues and the visual symptoms that accompany them. There are treatment options available, such as reading glasses, bifocals, and vision therapy, aimed at improving visual function.
The progression of myopia is influenced by genetic and environmental factors, including digital media use. Optometrists must examine the screen time habits of patients to minimize the progression of myopia. Scientific research has shown that increased outdoor exposure reduces the development of myopia.
Take our online visual skills assessment to help identify if you or your child has a potential visual deficit that may be interfering with success in the classroom, work, or sports.
In the current digital age, the use of digital media has become an inevitable part of children's daily lives. While digital media has many benefits, excessive and prolonged exposure to digital media has been linked to numerous negative effects on children's development and mental health.
Studies show that elevated digital media use can result in decreased cognitive and language skills in children, as well as a decrease in the ability to concentrate and pay attention. The blue light emitted by digital screens can also disrupt children's sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation, which can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.
Moreover, digital media use has a strong correlation with children's mental health. Studies have found that excessive digital media use can lead to increased anxiety and depression, decreased self-esteem, and a negative impact on social skills. Children who spend a significant amount of time on digital devices are more likely to be bullied and less likely to engage in physical activity, which can have negative effects on physical health.
It's important for parents and caregivers to monitor and limit their children's digital media use, setting clear guidelines and creating a healthy balance between digital and non-digital activities. Encouraging outdoor activities, exercise, and face-to-face communication can also mitigate the negative effects of digital media on children's development and mental health.
According to research, the blue light emitted from digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions disrupts the natural production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. This interference results in difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested and refreshed.
In addition to these direct effects on sleep, technology usage also disrupts bedtime routines and reduces the amount of time spent engaging in other sleep-promoting activities, such as reading or practicing relaxation techniques.
As a result, the increasing use of technology by children and adolescents has become a growing concern among health professionals and parents alike. To minimize the impact of technology on sleep, it is recommended to establish a consistent bedtime routine, avoid using digital devices for at least an hour before bed, and engage in activities that promote relaxation and relaxation before sleep.
As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), daily screen time for children is as follows: ages 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours, ages 11 to 14 spend an average of 9 hours, and ages 15 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours.
If you're concerned about the impact of digital media on your child's eye health, it's important to take action. Regular pediatric eye exams can help ensure that any potential issues are caught early and treated effectively. At Amplify EyeCare, our caring optometrists have extensive experience in pediatric eye care and are equipped to help diagnose and treat any eye strain symptoms your child may be experiencing. So, why wait? Schedule a pediatric eye exam for your child today.