“How bad is gadget use for my child’s eye?”  

Kid using gadget

“He/She is always on his/her iPad. Isn’t it the reason why his/her power got increased now?” Parents often purposefully ask this question in front of their children and they will look at me hopefully, expecting me to agree to them and dispense a lecture to the kids about tablets or mobiles being the reason why they have to wear stronger eyeglasses now. But unfortunately, the answer is not a straight forward Yes. 

To be frank, there have been no conclusive studies that link media devices with refractive errors. The reason why a kid is having myopia or astigmatism is not that the kid is using tablets or mobile phones. So, gadgets, in and of itself, did not make anyone wear eyeglasses. I know I am turning a little unpopular now with these statements but that is the very purpose of this whole website. To break the myths.

But let me try to redeem myself here a bit. Even though excessive use of gadgets does not yet prove to be causing refractive errors, it causes a number of harmful effects on the eye and brain. 

  •  Too much time spent on media devices means less time to spend outdoors and we have already discussed how spending time outdoors can help to control myopia. 
  • Kids who spend too much time on their gadgets, especially in wrong postures or lighting, have a high risk of experiencing eye strain at some point. This is known as Computer Vision Syndrome.
  • The increasing use of smartphones and other digital devices have led to kids developing dry eye disease (DED). A lower blink rate or incomplete blinks (when the upper eyelid doesn’t touch the lower eyelid) during long exposure to gadgets lead to faster evaporation of the lubricating tear film, leading to itchy dry eyes. 
  • Studies also revealed that excess use of gadgets will cause sleeplessness, attention problems, and obesity. This is said to be because the blue light emitting from these devices can suppress the release of Melatonin. Melatonin is a very important hormone that tells the body when it should sleep. Some researches indicate that prolonged exposure to blue light (such as sitting in front of a computer all day) might cause damage to your retina.

Having said that, especially I myself being the father of two little ones, we all agree that it is almost impossible to keep our kids away from these gadgets completely. In this age and world where everything is turning out to be digital and everyone is tech-savvy; total ignorance might not be a good idea. Now, with the pandemic around, most of the academic activities are conducted online too. 

So, is there anything we can do about it in these unavoidable circumstances?

Yes, there is. 

Go big and Go far

A woman from behind watching TV and changing channels with tv remote control while sitting on sofa

We must understand that kids particularly don’t have any liking for our mobile screens or tablet screen. What they love is the characters in it or the games that they play in it. Give those on your TV screens which have a bigger screen and thus make them sit away from the screen and watch it. With this boom of affordable smart TVs, TV boxes, and casting devices, is that a really difficult solution? Hope not.

The farther they stay distant from the screen and the bigger the images are, the lesser strain on their eye muscles. But then, this is just a ‘better than worst’ kind of solution and it can never substitute a good one or one and a half hours of daylight outdoor activity.

Apart from this, make sure that the child is not using the device with any extra brightness than what is actually needed. Also, try to use those devices earlier in the day, not at bedtime. Put at least an hour between screen time and bedtime.

That is it? How about Blue Filter Lenses?

Mother and Son Using Laptop

Yes. This is important. But digital devices are not just the only source of blue light. We get far more blue light from the sun than what we get from our computer. Our bodies have evolved to deal with this light in normal circumstances. Any impact by the exposure of blue light is proven to be only associated with prolonged or continuous use of these devices. So, even here, the first line of defense must be to limit the excessive usage of gadgets.

Thus, if your child is already wearing an eyeglass, and if you are sure of him using it excessively on digital devices, it is better to use quality blue-light blocking lenses. Blue light filter lenses block/absorb the specific segment of light wavelengths within the blue spectrum and may have a slightly yellow tint to the lenses. But, if your kid doesn’t wear an eyeglass or not having any refractive error, the easier option is to turn on the ‘blue filter’ mode on those devices. They can help to protect kids from digital eye strain.

So, let us conclude it here, both these last two questions can be answered in one sentence as “GO – LESS GADGETS, MORE OUTDOORS”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *