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When I (Becky) was a kid, my mom was notorious for always telling me, “Don’t sit too close to the television screen! You’ll ruin your eyes!”
I was never quite sure if that was true or not back then, but what I do know now is that my vision stinks.
And I don’t think it was from watching The Smurfs “too close to the TV screen.”
What I do suspect contributed to my less-than-stellar vision is too much time in front of the computer screen; a necessary thing when you write web content for a living!
But it also makes me exceptionally concerned for the eye health of my kids; a conversation that recently came up during my daughter Sara’s eye exam at Lakes Area Eyecare of Baxter.
Electronics, Blue Light and Your Child’s Eyes | The Facts
YES, damaging blue light from digital devices is a “thing.”
Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. When it combines, we get the effect of “white light” which many of us recognize as rays of the sun. Each of these colors have a different energy and wavelength; some short and some long.
Blue light by itself has a long wavelength and long wavelength equals more exposure. The sun is the largest source of blue light, but it is also millions of miles away. Other sources of blue light (the more concerning ones) also happen to be the ones right in front of our faces!
- Fluorescent Light
- CFL (compact fluorescent bulbs)
- LED light
- Flat screen LED TVs
- Computer monitors, smart phones and tablet screens
From a parent’s perspective, this makes me worry.
The constant role that the above-listed things play in our kids’ lives, coupled with the scientific studies that have proven children’s eyes absorb more light than adults from digital sources, makes me worry that my kids will be blind as bats before they are 30.
However, believe it or not, blue light is also needed for good health. It boosts alertness, helps with memory and cognitive function and elevates moods. BUT, like any good thing in life, it needs moderation.
The downside is that too much blue light, like overuse (or late night use) of digital devices, can mess up the healthy wake and sleep cycle. Ironically, thanks to the popularity of electronic devices, there’s been a recent uptick in myopia/nearsightedness in both kids and adults.
Electronics, Blue Light and Children’s Eyes | How You Can Protect Your Kids
There are many things parents can do to protect their child’s eyes from blue light damage. Some fall into the realm of common sense parenting like setting limits on daily computer use and having kids surrender their devices several hours before bedtime.
Then there are the more health-based and proactive ideas, all of which I learned about during my last two visits to Lakes Area Eyecare. Dr. Kristel Schamber and Dr. Brooke Fenstad are extremely knowledgable on the effects of blue light on young eyes and how protection can be approached from an eye health perspective.
Be Proactive About Your Child’s Eye Health
The first step is to be aware of the possibly changing needs of your child’s eyes. “I encourage parents to be proactive about their child’s eye health even if there are no apparent issues,” Dr. Schamber confirmed. “After an eye exam reveals that all is well and no prescription is need, I still suggest coming back in a year for a recheck. Kids’ eyes can change quickly especially during growth spurts and hormone changes. If a child does need glasses, we work to provide them with the quality eyewear that fits their needs and encourage parents to bring them back in a year as well. Children’s eyesight can change rapidly when they grow and that includes improvement or declines of their vision. Scheduling early and consistent follow-up eye exams is very important because we ultimately don’t want poor vision affect any child’s life.”
Add Extra Protection to Kids’ Glasses
The second step is to be aware of what is available in the way of eye glasses lenses that can work to protect young eyes from harmful blue light. When ordering my daughter Sara’s new lenses, Dr. Schamber encouraged me to have an anti-reflective coating/protection added to her lenses. Sara’s lenses are Transition Lenses (they turn dark like sunglasses when she’s outside) and I was relieved to learn there was some of that protection already built into those lenses.
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Like with many things in life, awareness key. If parents and caregivers understand the risks of blue light, they can take steps to deflect those risks as much as possible.
The reality is that students of all ages need to see well so they can perform well in school. Common sense practices, early treatment of vision issues, and healthier digital habits can minimize any eye damage that could impair a child’s eyesight for life.