Digital Eye Strain Could Cause Long-Term Complications in Children

Youth need to be reminded to take short, frequent breaks from digital consumption.

Image via Flickr user Gwenael Piaser

Most adults are familiar with digital eye strain, the feeling of fatigue and physical discomfort caused by prolonged exposure to the electronic displays used in computers, TVs, and smartphones—the feeling is usually temporary and diminishes with rest. But as children get introduced to digital devices earlier and earlier in their development, there is growing concern about the effects of their prolonged exposure to glowing screens. The Vision Council believes that it could put the eyes of children at risk for myopia, or nearsightedness. The Council also raises concerns that blue-violet wavelengths emitted by digital screens could cause age-related muscular degeneration and cataracts.

Image via the Vision Council

In their 2015 Report on Digital Eye Strain, the Vision Council found that only 22 percent of parents say that they are very concerned about the harmful effects of digital eye strain on developing children. Thirty percent reported not being concerned about the issue at all. The Vision Council encourages parents to remind children to take occasional breaks from staring at their digital devices.

The prevalence of digital screens is relatively new, and the way we interact with them is something we are figuring out as we go along. Many experts advocate living by the 20-20-20 rule—for every 20 minutes spent staring at a screen, one should spend 20 seconds focusing on an object 20 feet away to give eye muscles a break. Whenever possible, displays should be around an arm’s length away from the eyes to reduce strain. Finally, children should be reminded to keep good posture to prevent future back, neck, or shoulder problems.

The study points out that digital devices are here to stay, as they are a growing necessity in keeping up with present-day society. The biggest pitfall with digital eye strain is that it so easily slips our minds. By keeping ourselves, and others, conscientious of the body’s physical and biological limitations, we can reap technology’s rewards at a lower cost to our senses.

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