SUMMARY: There are many reasons for parents to be thoughtful about how much screen time they allow their children. Amount of screen use per day has been associated with developmental outcomes, obesity, poor sleep quality and eye development.
Expert organizations have created guidance for parents to help understand the facts uncovered in scientific research. The World Health Organization recently released new guidelines, suggesting no screen time at all for children before age 1, and very limited screen time for children for several years after that.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no digital media use (except video-chatting) in children younger than 18 to 24 months, and focusing on educational media when children do start using screens.
Effects of Screen Use on Children’s Eyes
- Myopia (Nearsightedness) and Close Work and Reading: read about near-work and the rising number of near-sighted people
- Digital Eye Strain: what to do about dry itchy eyes, blurry vision and headaches
- Sleep Disruption from Screen Use: screen use can disrupt sleep habits at all ages
Eye Comfort and Safety Tips for Children and Screens
The best way to deal with possible effects of screens on children’s eyes and vision is to help them set good habits for use. These same tips are good practices for adults and anyone suffering from chronic dry eyes or eye strain.
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Set a timer to remind the child how often to look into the distance.
- Alternate reading an e-book with a real book and encourage kids to look up and out the window every other chapter.
- After completing a level in a video game, look out the window for 20 seconds.
- Pre-mark books with a paperclip every few chapters to remind your child to look up. On an e-book, use the “bookmark” function for the same effect.
- Avoid using screens outside or in brightly lit areas, where the glare on the screen can create strain.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast of the screen so that it feels comfortable.
- Use good posture when using a screen. Poor posture can contribute to muscle tightness and headaches associated with eye strain.
- Encourage your child to hold digital media farther away: 18 to 24 inches is ideal.
- Remind them to blink when watching a screen.