What Does a Digital Screen Do To Your Child’s Eyes?

Is your child always immersed in a computer game or using the iPad for long periods of time?

Any modern-day parent will agree that kids and devices such as iPads, computers and gaming consoles are inseparable. With children spending a considerable amount of time every day on such devices, it is important for parents to understand the effect this can have on their child’s eyes. Moreover, with computers and iPads becoming an integral part of our lives, it is important to weigh the risks and benefits of our children using these devices.

Recent research has shown that children who use computers and iPads at home perform better at school than those who do not; but giving excess of anything to a human body will result in a compromise of its health.

Dr SooJin Nam, Behavioural Optometrist at Eyecare Kids shared, ‘These days it is common to come across children who spend half of their waking hours on iPads. Although we are not against computer/iPad use in children, we emphasise on parent education and making them aware of the risks involved in excess use of computers and iPads in children. We encourage moderate and healthy use of digital devices in children.’

Three main risks of excess computer/iPad use in children are:

  • Exposure to harmful blue light emitted from the digital screens
  • Progression of near-sightedness due to eye strain resulting from excess near tasks
  • Posture-related problems due to poor ergonomics from digital screen use

Blue Light Exposure

Optometrist Dr Alexander Du stated, ‘Light that we see is made up of the colours red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. These colours vary in wavelength and energy. The blue, indigo and violet lights are higher frequency and hence higher energy. Studies suggest that over time, exposure to these high energy blue lights may cause both short and long-term damage to your eyes.’

‘Higher energy blue light also flickers more than longer wavelengths of light. This flickering can create a glare that can reduce contrast and affect clarity. This can then cause eye strain, headaches, physical and mental fatigue.’

Every electronic screen emits higher energy blue light. Excess exposure to this blue light to the eyes may cause oxidative stress to the retina, which may lead to macular degeneration in the future. Apart from the oxidative damage to the retina, excess exposure to blue light is also known to disrupt the sleep cycle, which can cause problems in children. This is why it is very important to protect children from the harmful blue light emitted by digital screens.


Progression of Near-sightedness

The eye strain associated with excess computer and iPad use is known to cause near-sightedness as well as aid its progression. A child using computers and iPads for prolonged period of time forces their focusing system to strain continuously throughout the period of use of the device. As a child’s visual system is in a plastic stage, the eye slowly becomes near-sighted due to constant near work related eye strain. This eventually results in near-sightedness and its progression.


Posture-Related Problems

Apart from vision related problems, excess use of computers and iPads can also lead to damage of various parts of the body such as neck, wrists, back, knees and elbows. This is mainly due to poor postures maintained by children during prolonged use of digital devices. Poor ergonomics during computer/iPad use can result in excess strain exerted especially on the joints. This can lead to various posture-related complications.

It has to be noted that the solution to this problem is not stopping the kids from accessing computers/iPads, as this would affect their progress in this digital era. Smart phones, computers and iPads are here to stay and it is important to work around this problem.

Effective Remedies to Fight the Cons of Computer/iPad Use in Children:

  • If your child wears spectacles, to avoid excess exposure to the harmful blue light, a special type of spectacle lenses can be used. These lenses have a blue light blocking coating that can selectively eliminate the harmful blue light from entering the eye. Children should be encouraged to wear this protective coating if they require spectacles when working on digital screens.
  • To avoid eye strain resulting from near work during digital screen use, if your child requires glasses, they should be encouraged to wear a special type of lens called an anti-fatigue lens. These lenses relax the eyes’ focusing system when working continuously on computers and iPads. These spectacles can prevent a child from becoming near-sighted due to eye strain and also prevent eye strain-related progression of near-sightedness.
  • A simple exercise of making the child take a break from near work every 20 minutes and asking them to look away at an object 20 feet (6 metres) away from them and blink 20 times has been shown to decrease the eye strain drastically.
  • Posture-related problems resulting from excess use of computers and iPads could be avoided by minute adjustments of ergonomics. These minute adjustments include: not allowing the child to lie-down and use a digital screen, making sure the child sits on a chair with back support with legs rested on the ground and the device below eye level on a table, avoiding direct light reflecting on the screen to eliminate glare-related stress.