Protecting Your Child’s Eyes in the Age of the Screen


In late August, the Chinese government took a striking stance on screen use and eyesight. According to the Toronto Star, Xi Jinping, the country’s leader, said that too much computer use and video games were causing China’s young population to have unusually high rates of nearsightedness.

To halt the problem, the government recommended introducing new controls to limit screen exposure. As a result, shares of China’s leading gaming company, Tencent, plummeted the next day.

However, evidence linking screen exposure and eyesight problems is still somewhat lacking. According to The Verge and Medbroadcast, the kind of light screens emit is not capable of causing lasting eye damage for adults.

That being said, staring at a screen for long periods of time is known to cause temporary eye discomforts and even short-term vision problems. A whole host of complications are known to be related to extended screen exposure, such as eye dryness, eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, blurred vision, troubles focusing, and shoulder and neck pain. Ultimately, however, these ailments are typically temporary.

But what about the kids? According to CBS news, some doctors are concerned that children’s eyes could be more susceptible to screen-related damage. Nowadays, children spend over two hours looking at digital devices, and far less time in natural sunlight, which is essential to healthy eye development. According to Dr. Christopher Starr, an ophthalmologist, lack of sunlight could be related to worldwide rises in myopia (nearsightedness) in children.

Too much screen time for kids may not directly damage their eyesight, but it is still not ideal for their overall health. In one extreme case, a 17-year-old in China died from playing a video game for over forty hours straight. China’s concern does not seem entirely misplaced.

While fatal situations are extremely unlikely, there are still many steps a parent can take to limit screen time and protect their children’s eyesight as they develop. Try the following methods for promoting healthy eyes in childhood:

  1. Get Their Vision Checked Regularly
    Getting children in to see a specialist can help detect eye-related issues early. Seventy-nine percent of all children have not visited an eye care provider in the past year, which can be damaging to their vision as well as their performance in school, their focus, and their happiness.
  2. Provide a Balanced Diet
    Getting all the food groups promotes healthy growth by providing children with vitamins, like vitamin A, which specifically promotes eye health.
  3. Watch for Warning Signs
    Monitor children’s behaviors for signs of bad vision or eye-related illness. Squinting, headaches, and dizziness can all indicate vision problems.
  4. Get Them Outside
    As Dr. Starr points out, vitamin D from the sun is essential to proper eye development. Get the kids off the phone and out in the fresh air for optimum health and growth!

Today, it’s impossible to avoid screens. Millions of Americans now do most of their work through a computer screen, and that work often continues once they arrive at home.
A survey of 1,000 business owners found that fully 65% let employees work remotely in some capacity. Screens have invaded our work life, our homes, our cars, and even our pockets, and it’s impossible for this screen obsession not to affect our kids.

Though eye researchers are still studying the link between screens and children’s vision, there are steps any parent can take to promote good overall health. Ditching the devices, eating healthy, and visiting the eye doctor are all good ways to take care of a child’s vision an overall health.

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