Children’s Vision in the Digital Age
According to Common Sense Media, nearly ¾ of all children 0 to 8 years old hadaccess to a mobile device at home in 2013 compared to just over 1/3 in 2011.
In addition, 38% of toddlers under 2 years of age were reported by their parents as having used a mobile device in 2013. The most common household mobile device is still the smartphone at 63%, but tablet (IPAD, Surface, etc.) ownership has skyrocketed from 8% in 2011 to 40% in 2013
Further, the American Optometric Association performed a survey of American households in 2014 and found that 85% of parents reported their children use electronic devices up to 4 hours a day. In the same survey 41% of children were reported to have their own smartphone or tablet.
So far, evidence based research has not found any structural disease or permanent loss of eye health that results from prolonged digital media use or screen time. However, it is well established that eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck/shoulder pain can often develop with extended periods of digital media use and is referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome. As digital media use has increased over the last 30 years, there has also been a concurrent 66% increase in the prevalence of nearsightedness (eyes focused more for close vision) according to the National Eye Institute. In response to increased digital device use and the emergence of computer vision syndrome, new lens treatments such as Crizal Prevencia® are now available and have been engineered with certain properties meant to improve visual comfort when using digital devices.
To insure your family has good digital visual hygiene, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends establishing screen free zones by removing digital screens including TV’s, computers, tablets, smartphones, and video games from your children’s bedroom. The AAP also recommends limiting children’s screen time to 1-2 hours/day when only passively watching TV/movies, gaming, or communicating via text or social media.
It is also important to have children work in good lighting and to position their face no closer to the screen than the distance from the knuckles on their fist to their elbow (known as the Harmon Distance). In addition, it has been proven that children lose their perception of time when consuming digital media so children need to be reminded to take a break every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away, and let your eyes rest for 20 seconds to relax the focusing system and improve visual comfort.
In America today, digital media is ubiquitous and can serve a positive and useful role in enhancing children’s lives. Establishing good visual hygiene habits in childhood will allow screen time to be comfortable and enjoyable for years to come.