In today’s digital age, devices have become as much a part of ourselves as our clothes and shoes, but when it comes to children’s eyes, is this necessarily a good thing?
Blue light and computer screens
Modern digital devices, including smart phones, tablets and TVs, emit more blue light than previous-generation devices. Older LCD screens used fluorescent light to backlight the screen, whereas newer LCD screens use Light Emitting Diode (LED) technology for backlighting.
The big difference is in how much blue light is emitted. As you can see from the images, the LED backlit screens (second image) emit far higher levels of blue light.
Blue light is close to ultra-violet light in the spectrum. UV light is implicated in a range of ocular diseases including cataract and pterygium.
Research is emerging that visible blue-violet light is toxic to the retinal cells at the back of your eye.
As it yellow with age, your crystalline lens acts as a filter to blue light, but young eyes have little natural protection.
How do I protect my family’s eyes?
There are things you can do to reduce or eliminate the computer-emitted blue light getting to your children’s eye. The Eye Practice recommends the Reduce-Replace-Reflect strategy:
Reducing time on digital screens is good for everyone! Reducing screen time can meet with resistance, but it can be easier if you time them with a cute animal timer whenever the TV is turned on or iPad appears. There is no need for a complete ban, but capping total daily screen time is a good thing.
More drastic (but ultimately more effective) than cutting back on screen time is simply developing other pass-times. Studies have shown that time spent outdoors is directly correlated with a lower incidence of myopia (short-sightedness). Crack out the beach cricket, go for a family bike ride or hike in the bush. Board games, one-player puzzles (such as those from Smart Games), model-building and craft are all excellent substitutes for screen time.
The other thing you could replace is your desk top monitor. BenQ make a range of computer monitors with blue light filters.
If that all sounds too much like hard work, get some blue blockers! Blue blockers are invisible filters in spectacle lenses, which block the passage of blue light in the toxic wavelength. They are available in both prescription and non-prescription lenses. Wearing these glasses during computer use prevents toxic blue light from entering the eye.
What about my teenager’s eyes?
It’s all so simple when they’re little – you’re still in charge. But once your kids become teenagers, not only does screen time go way up, you also have less control over it. Quite often, all you can really do is to encourage healthy screen habits. The Eye Practice recommends the 20-20-20 rule for anyone spending significant amounts of time on digital devices: Every 20 minutes, stand up and look into the distance for 20 seconds while blinking 20 times. This achieves a number of things; it gives the accommodating muscles of the eye a break. It also staves off dry eye symptoms by stimulating the tear glands and lubricating the eye during blinking. (If you can also have a good stretch during this time, you can also reduce other symptoms such as neck and back pain).