Dr. Nadine Shelton
Is screen-time bad for kids’ eyes?
Parents often ask me if screen-time is really that bad for their kids’ eyes and how much is too much screen-time. The answer is, unfortunately, not that simple or clear as there is little research on this topic. In November 2017, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society released a joint position statement about the effects of screens on children’s vision, the following are the main points of the statement;
1) There is some evidence that both desktop and portable computers are associated with discomfort in children such as burning, itchy and tired eyes. Longer use of devices increases the frequency of symptoms and the chance of multiple symptoms.
2) Screen-time may interfere with children’s sleep as blue light emitted from the screen can suppress melatonin production. This makes it harder for children to fall asleep.
3) The Canadian Paediatric Society and the American Academy of Pediatrics suggest screen-time limits based on age but do not take vision into account as a reason. Its limits are based on the correlation of screens with obesity, poorer school performance and poorer sleep quality.
4) Screen-time is not directly linked to increased myopia prevalence (myopia, or nearsightedness, is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus to see images clearly. This is because in myopia, close objects look clear but distant objects appear blurred). This increase is most likely due to kids spending less time outside and having less exposure to outdoor light.
5) Recommended screen-time for children from this statement:
a. 0-2 years: none
b. 2-5 years: no more than 1 hour per day
c. 5-18 years: ideally no more than 2 hours per day, but limits should be based on the child’s development and needs
6) Take a break of 30 minutes after every 60 minutes of screen time. These breaks should include full body activities.
7) Avoid using screens one hour before bedtime, as it helps one better prepare for sleep.
Eye Care Advice
As children may or may not complain about screen-time associated discomfort, for that reason, it is a good idea to schedule a regular eye exam to assess their ability to cope with their visual demands. In Manitoba, children under the age of 19 are covered by Manitoba Health for a yearly eye exam. I can assess your child’s vision and eye health at my clinic, nv eye care eye wear. You may also visit me, free of charge at nv, as patient visits with eye concerns are always covered by Manitoba Health, certainly for those with a Manitoba Health number. For more answers to your vision health questions, please contact me, Dr. Nadine Shelton at nv eye care eye wear, 204-504-6863.
Dr. Nadine Shelton B.Sc, O.D. studied at University of Winnipeg, Canada and Indiana University, USA. She has worked abroad in Guanajuato, Mexico assisting outreach patient eye care with VOSH (Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity). Her university days focused on early child eye care and low vision. Dr. Shelton has spent almost nine years in South St.Vital growing her practice. She has recently opened her new own practice with her partner Victor Lopes in the heart of the Corydon Village called nv. nv is a full service optical where eye exams are available and a great selection of unique to the city eye wear can be found. Learn more at nvmyeyes.com, call us at (204) 504-6863 or come see us at 100-698 Corydon Ave in Winnipeg, Canada.