Lately, I’ve noticed that no matter what media outlet you frequent, you’ll see warnings regarding the dangers of blue light. This available information, coupled with my focus on pediatric patients, has allowed me to notice a large increase in the number of parents asking me how to better protect their children’s eyes. Many times, they ask me with hope-filled voices if they should be reducing “screen time” for their kids by banning Snapchat and Fortnite in order to accomplish this task.
I’ve found myself answering this from two perspectives.
First, I answer as an eye care professional.
It’s important to understand what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends: no screen time under two years old and no more than an hour a day from ages 2 to 5. Beyond that, a limit of two hours a day is recommended. As an eye doctor, I agree that, in a perfect world, these limits would be ideal to best maintain eye health.
My other perspective comes as a parent.
In the public-school district where I live, every single student from kindergarten to seniors in high school is given a laptop to keep for the duration of the school year. I think it’s fair to assume that in a normal 8-hour school day, they most likely have already exceeded the two-hour time limit recommendations. Throw in homework at night, and those are truly impossible standards to keep.
So, how do we balance our desire to protect our children with allowing them to thrive educationally and socially? When I started advising parents to limit screen time 20 years ago, it was much easier than it is today. Now, our children’s worlds are wildly tied to screens – from the schoolwork we’ve mentioned to the way they interact socially. Understand that a two-hour time limit is most likely not obtainable, and parents should stop feeling guilty for not achieving it.
The answer isn’t simply to be resigned and do nothing, though. There are very clear ways you, as a parent, can protect your children’s eyes from the harm that these screens can cause. In upcoming blogs, I’ll be giving specifics on how you can do this.
For now, take comfort in the fact that buckling seatbelts is automatic for today’s kids. Remember, there was a time many of us were bouncing over the seats of our parents’ station wagons untethered, with zero knowledge of its dangers. I promise we’ll get to the other side of screen-time-related eye health with the same success and automatic responses as we did with that problem.