Can Screens Damage Your Child’s Vision?

When toys or pencils aren’t in hand, children often resort to cell phones, computer games or video games to keep them busy. As a parent, you may be concerned with the excessive screen time your child is potentially taking in each day. Is it bad for their eyes and health?

Preston Linley, OD, an optometrist with ProMedica Physicians Eye Care, says that there is no evidence-based study that shows that technology strains eyesight. However, cases of myopia, or nearsightedness, have doubled in the last 50 years. Increasing time spent indoors with computers and tablets may be playing a part in some vision fatigue and eye dryness.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents limit the screen use of their children ages 2-5 to one hour per day, then place consistent limits on the time spent using media for children 6 years and older. The academy also recommends designating technology-free time together, such as dinner, driving or having media-free zones at home.

In addition to potential vision issues, screen time can contribute to sleep disturbances in children. “The blue light that is emitted from our computers and cell phones actually stimulates us and makes it harder for us to fall asleep at night, causing sleep deprivation, which can affect their school performance the next day,” explained Dr. Linley.

You don’t need to cut out technology entirely, but Dr. Linley did suggest sticking to the guidelines and using common sense. “Technology is good and there is a lot of pluses to technology,” he said. “You can’t avoid technology; just limit your exposure and send them outside.”

When children are doing computer work or using phones, Dr. Linley suggested they (and their parents) follow the 20-20-20 rule.

“For every 20 minutes of technology use, you should shift your eyes away from what you are doing and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds,” he explained. This helps give your eyes a needed break until you can turn off the device.

For more eye health tips, visit our Eye Care page.