The problem—kids are beginning to use technology from a very young age.
In this digital age, kids are constantly exposed to electronics—hours of video games, Internet browsing and movie binging. Modern media emphasises how extended periods of time playing video games can lead to obesity and aggressive behaviour, but less is said about its possible effect on the eyes and vision.
This is quite worrisome.
Dr SooJin Nam, Behavioural Optometrist from Eyecare Kids, explains the rising concerns optometrists have with the change in habits with screen time:
Not only are we spending more time on the computer, laptops, iPads and smartphones, the screens have also become smaller. Reading small text used to be limited to reading medicine instructions or looking up the white pages. Now we are living in a period when adults and children are both spending much more time with near tasks.
Playing video games for excessive amounts of time can cause children to experience the same symptoms seen in computer vision syndrome in adults! Some symptoms prevalent in kids who forget to take breaks while gaming include eye discomfort, fatigue, blurry vision and headaches.
In some situations, prolonged gaming could lead to bigger issues such as eye focusing problems and eye irritation.
When exposed to video games, the behaviour of the eye vastly changes when compared to looking at a flat surface, such as a book. This is because when looking at a ‘flat surface’, the eyes and brain can perceive the exact distance at which to focus. However, for video games, the eye is forced to constantly change its focus and to move at erratic paces. This can cause the eye to be very tired and will result in the fatigue of the lens, making focusing in the future much more difficult.
Being entranced in video games, kids tend to blink less frequently when playing them. This decrease in blinking rate can affect their flow of tears, resulting in dryness and irritation. This can affect important activities such as studying and sports.
This is a rampant problem not only in kids but also teenagers and young adults. Because electronics are becoming almost an essential element to our lives, there is a great need for various methods to help prevent or reduce any eye problems.
Rise in Myopia
Optometrist Dr SooJin Nam says,
This change in lifestyle is also being blamed for the rise in myopia. The prevalance of short-sightedness used to be 8% in school aged children, and a recent study shows that Australia has up to 31% of myopic school aged students—a far cry from our Asian counterparts, but we are certainly catching up.
What Is Blue Light?
For the longest time we’ve only heard about UV light. What is this new thing we hear called blue light? SooJin Nam explains,
Blue light being emitted from screens have also been claimed for exacerbating the eyestrain problem. You need to know that on the spectrum, there is what we call ‘good blue light’ and ‘bad blue light’. Good blue light helps us manage our sleep cycles and tells our brain when to wake up and when to sleep. Bad blue light (which is closer to harmful UV light) makes seeing harder. High energy blue light scatters more easily than other visible light so it is not as easily focused. When you’re looking at digital devices that emit significant amounts of blue light, this unfocused visual ‘noise’ reduces contrast and can contribute to eyestrain.
So, how much video game time should you allow your child?
There is no rigid rule one can impose on how you raise your children—it is something quite personal and involves many factors, e.g, family traditions, culture, income, etc., and can vary from parent to parent. However, good judgment will tell you that in everything, like food or studying, moderation is key.
One of the best recommendations by Rodger, an optometry student who has ‘been there and done that’ with video games, is to take frequent breaks. Allow your kids to play for up to 30 minutes and then encourage your kids to maybe do a few errands or stare at the scenery—as long as their eyes are allowed to rest and readjust to something else.
SooJin Nam concurs:
Our eyes are not designed to be focused at one plane of field of such an extended amount of time. When we look down to read, our eyes have to put in much more effort to converge and focus. We are supposed to be scanning our environment constantly for that…sabre tooth tiger who might eat us! (This fun comment by Dr Nam actually has very positive implications for our overall eye health. Looking up at the scenery between prolonged near-vision tasks is good for your eyes.)
Another advice is to play at a distance from the computer or any consoles. The recommended difference between the eyes and the screen of consoles (PlayStation, Wii, X-box) is 2 metres. For computer viewing, ensure that your kid has good posture and is at least 50cm from the screen.
Put on Their Lens Defense!
Finally, there are many lenses that help protect the eyes if your kids are exposed to the screens for too long. Products such as the Eyezen Prevencia not only allows the eye to have reduced strain, they also help enhance our vision while protecting them from blue light.
SooJin Nam says,
Fortunately people can get filters for their screens (which does make the screen a yucky brown colour) or you can get lenses which have a special coating that cuts down the amount of blue light that enters your eye. This doesn’t fix all your eyestrain problem, but at least alleviates a significant contributor.
Protect their eyes with lenses than block blue light!Book an appointment at one of our child-friendly locations!