As a mom of a 16-year-old and at a practice with a heavy pediatric patient base, Louise Sclafani, OD, FAAO, FSLS, is on the front line of the screen time epidemic. She practiced for 24 years in a hospital setting at the University of Chicago, is a consultant for several companies, and now works in a private practice in downtown Chicago. In her busy schedule, she was able to find some time to discuss the screen time epidemic and her concerns about the effects it could have, specifically on children. This is the first post in the series.
How Would You Describe the Impact of Screen Time on Your Patients?
Parents are always saying to me “My kid is on a laptop or on the phone all the time—is this harming their eyes?” 70% of the kids I see have some vision-related issues. They talk about tired eyes, headaches, eye strain, and trouble sleeping.
What’s the Biggest Issue with Screen Time?
Honestly, trouble sleeping is the biggest issue, but parents and teens don’t associate that symptom with digital devices. Kids need 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and they aren’t getting it because they go to bed and stay on their phones or tablets or watch TV. Even when parents take away those devices, kids still have trouble falling asleep.
Are Parents Aware of the Possible Damages Screen Time Can Have?
Parents are very aware of the detriments of UV lights on other aspects of the eye, and they’re becoming more aware of the inherent damage that can be caused by digital screens. To help them really understand, I explain that blue light from screens is an artificial UV element we haven’t encountered in the past. Nobody looks at the sun for six hours a day, but kids are shining a bright light directly into their eye for six or more hours.
The scariest part is that we don’t know what’s going to happen in ten years because this screen time epidemic has just started in the past four or five.
Is There a Solution?
Dr. Sclafani recognizes the growing concern of her patients and/or their parents. While the direct implications of screen time are not fully known, she has a solution for parents that offers proactive protection and improved nutrition. Learn more in the next post.