Is Technology Hurting Your Kids' Eyes?

eyes and computers
Posted at 7:56 AM, Oct 07, 2014
and last updated 2016-07-04 12:06:26-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) -- From the moment they wake up, kids are surrounded by screens.  

Whether they're at home or at school, they're staring at computers or tablets, smartphones or smart boards and now, many parents are worried about how that screen time might impair their child's vision. In this Angie's List report, how to protect your child's sight in a high-tech world.

With one child already wearing glasses, Angie Barnes is trying to figure out how much is too much when it comes to screen time for her kids.

"I am concerned that they're constantly looking down and texting," she said. "My kids probably spend more time on devices then what I would like, but it varies from day to day."

Doctors say children's vision is vulnerable to damage from the blue light used to backlight many multimedia devices.  But kids often accept vision problems as normal, so it's up to parents to detect warning signs. And don't wait to get something checked - it could turn into a long-term problem.

"We're seeing those symptoms of computer vision syndrome, where they're getting eye strain after a few hours of using a digital device. Blurred vision, dry eyes, things of that nature that we didn't see seven years ago before iPhones and tablets came out. So, we're seeing a lot more of that today," said Dr.Nick Feipel, an optometrist.

Doctors tell Angie's List the 20-20-20 rule is an easy way to remember to take breaks. After 20 minutes spent using technology, look 20 feet away from the screen for at least 20 seconds.

"I like to compare it to holding a fist. When you are staring at a computer screen, your eyes are contracted like you're holding a fist. So imagine holding a fist for an hour or more at a time and then trying to look up and relax that fist. Your eyes are doing the same thing, which is why I recommend frequent breaks because you just can't hold that contraction for very long and not have a side effect afterwards of blurred vision or eye strain," said optometrist Dr. Kathleen Busby.

When it comes to setting screen time limits for your kids, doctors recommend one to two hours a day. They say children under 2 years old should not be watching TV or other screens.

You can catch the latest Angie's List report every Tuesday on WTXL Sunrise.