Your child, like all children (and adults!), probably love sitting down in front of their favourite TV show, with a snack in hand, to relax after a grueling day of kindergarten or school. Watching TV or playing on a tablet can be both entertaining and educational, all the while providing a good distraction which parents enjoy as much as their offspring!
But how much time in front of a screen can actually become… too much? Will staring at digital screens for a certain amount of time cause negative effects to their eyesight?
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), the screens themselves won’t damage their eyes. When sitting near the TV, children actually tend to focus on a short distance better than adults, and may develop the habit of bringing things to watch or read closer to their face. But, when staring at a screen, they tend to blink less, and are therefore making their eyes drier, which “may lead to a feeling of eyestrain or fatigue.” It can also cause headaches and nausea.
In the long run, the American Optometric Association (AOA) warns that dry eyes can cause blurry vision, excess watering, scratchy or burning eyes. When the problem worsens, the front surface of the eye could get damaged, which would impair vision, and would become a bigger problem that no parent wants to have to deal with!
What should you do to protect children’s eyes, then? Well, keep an eye open (pun intended) for any sign of ocular dryness like eye rubbing as well as for any complaint about headaches, eyestrain or other symptoms. Prevention is better than the cure, therefore we encourage limiting the time they spend in front of a screen. Perhaps establishing a schedule during which they have access to their favourite devices and then encouraging other ways to play when they are not on the device. Like sending them outside to play!
If you are worried about your child’s habits, a visit to your optometrist might help to make sure everything between their nose and forehead runs as smoothly as it should!