Screen time is inevitable in our children’s lives, and while reducing screen time is beneficial, it isn’t always practical. There are ways however to make screen time healthier.
Viewing digital devices should be done in a well lit room with frequent breaks. Taking small breaks more frequently is better than taking long breaks less frequently. We often recommend the 20-20-20 rule where every 20 minutes you take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away (anything in the distance will work). You should be maintaining appropriate posture, and keeping a safe distance from the screen. It is ideal to position yourself about 75-100cm away or follow the “elbow rule” (at least elbow to hand distance away).1,2
While blue light emitted from electronic devices is not strong enough to cause immediate damage, long term effects are still unknown. It is suspected that chronic exposure may cause damage to cells in the back of the eye. Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that absorb the blue pigment in the retina and protect it from damage. These can be found in leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach.3
It is recommended to avoid screen time about one hour before bedtime to allow for melatonin production. Blue light blockers have not been shown to help with computer vision syndrome symptoms. However the use of blue light blockers, or night shift on digital devices has shown to help with sleep.4
It is important to encourage kids to find hobbies that don’t include screens. Outdoor time can reduce symptoms of computer vision syndrome, reduce the risk of myopia development, and reduce the risk of developing obesity.1,2 It is recommended that children spend 90 min a day outdoors.2
Don’t forget kids tend to learn from watching their parents. It is important to lead by example by demonstrating these healthy screen viewing habits yourself. Your kids and your eyes will thank you!