During the pandemic, kids screen time increased by an average of 5 hours a day.”1 In a world where digital devices are becoming more necessary for kids to learn, it can be difficult to determine how much is too much. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends no screen time for children less than two years of age. A maximum of one hour of sedentary screen time for kids aged 2-5, and two hour limit outside of schoolwork for school-aged children 5-17.2
Computer vision syndrome consists of one or more of the following: eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, burning sensations, redness of eyes, dry eyes, blurred vision, and/or double vision after using a digital device for an extended period of time.3 This can be experienced by both children and adults and tends to get worse with increased duration of use. These symptoms typically occur for three main reasons. Firstly, poor muscle (oculomotor) function of the eyes such as over or under focusing (inaccurate accommodation), and excessive inward movement or crossing of the eyes .3 Secondly, increase in glare from bright screens causes squinting which can lead to eye pain and headaches.4 Lastly, an increase in dryness of the eyes.3
Dryness, burning, grittiness, heaviness, and sometimes even excessive tearing are all symptoms of dry eyes. This is usually caused by a decreased amount of blinking and increased evaporation of tears. Blink rate when on digital devices decreases from about 22 blinks per minute to about 7 blinks per minute, which unsurprisingly can cause our eyes to dry out.1
People who are focused on digital devices also demonstrate a lot of incomplete blinks-where their eyes will only close part way.1 Children often don’t notice these signs of discomfort, so their screen use should be regulated by an adult. Dry eye syndrome also tends to worsen with age, so it’s good to start with healthy habits young.
Most recent studies show an increase in myopia (near-sightedness) development with increased use of near digital devices.5 This may be related to an increase in time spent on near work and less time spent outdoors. One study showed myopic children spent more time playing video games than their non-myopic counterparts.5 Please visit our MYOPACE page to learn more information on myopia development.
Blue light emitted from screens reduces our brain’s melatonin production which disrupts our natural circadian rhythm.6 This can make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Screens are heavily integrated in the lives of both children and adults – and in many cases this is an unavoidable reality we all face. However, it is not all doom and gloom! Next month we will be releasing a blog post that will go over healthy habits that can make screen time more tolerable for your eyes!