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Do you have a screenager?

By Faye on 2018-02-07

Gadgets can be great for making our lives easier - from a phone, to a diary, to weather updates, to instant email - technology is literally at our finger tips and in our pockets. But do we really know the long-term effects of all this technology use? Especially when children are using devices at an ever younger age. Toddlers can swipe an iPad better than most adults - and I find myself asking children for help in solving my computer issues these days!

Children use different technologies for playing games, chatting to friends or watching videos and listening to music. Gadgets can be very educational and children can learn a lot from using technology. However, they can become so consumed by their activity that they don't take their attention off the screen, which can adversely affect their vision and general well-being.

Staring at screens for extended periods of time can cause dry eyes, eye irritation and difficulty focusing as well as headaches and general posture problems. In addition, most digital screens are back-lit and emit blue light which suppresses the sleep hormone melatonin. This can disrupt sleep patterns and cause an artificial feeling of wakefulness.

Digital screens have become an intrinsic (and seemingly inevitable) part of life. You can't keep kids away from them, but you can try to reduce their impact by:

  • Limiting the amount of time your children spend in front of a screen daily

  • Encouraging outdoor play. Physical interaction with other children is a healthier alternatice to sitting in front of a screen and regular play and exercise can help to reduce the risk of short-sightedness

  • Try not to rely on technology to babysit children. Where you can, keep children occupied with alternatives like books, role play toys, colouring or lego

  • Ensure your child gets enough sleep. The amount of sleep a child needs varies, but make sure your child is getting the right amount of sleep for their age (see - how much sleep do children need)

  • Ask them to take regular breaks. Eyestrain can be reduced by taking small breaks to look at something other than the screen, as a guide, every 20 minutes

  • Encourage children to sit at least 50cm away from the screen. If your child is asking to sit closer to the screen, get their eyes checked to rule out a vision focusing problem

  • Using night settings if the device has them may help children sleep by reducing the amount of blue light given off by the screen during night-time hours

  • No gadgets before bedtime. Make sure digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime. This gives the eyes a chance to recover and the body time to unwind and relax - read for better quality sleep

  • Discourage use of gadgets in the dark or sunlight. Screen brightness should not be 3x darker or brighter than the surroundings. If a device has an auto-brightness mode, enable it - this automatically adjusts screen brightness

  • Take your child for an eye test at least every two years - or as frequently as recommended by your Optometrist (children being monitored or having treatment for a focusing error may need to be seen as frequently as every 3 months). Regular eye examinations ensures their eyes get the care and attention they need to stay healthy

If we can help with any eye care tips or advice for you and your family, please get in touch.

Take care, eye care