Limiting your child’s screen time to protect their eyesight

“My kids probably spend more time on devices then what I would like, but it varies from day to day,” said parent Angie Barnes.

With one child already wearing glasses, Barnes is trying to figure out how much is too much when it comes to screen time for her kids.

“I am concerned that they’re constantly looking down and texting, or working on an iPad or computer,” Barnes added. “So, it’s something, kind of another thing that we have to think about and are concerned with their development.”

“If you’re concerned about your child’s vision, you should get it checked out right away because if you let it go, it can actually cause long–term problems,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

Children often accept vision problems as normal, so it’s up to parents to detect warning signs.

“We’re seeing those symptoms of computer vision syndrome, where they’re getting eye strain after a few hours of using a digital device or even just reading a paper book and blurred vision, dry eyes, things of that nature that we didn’t see seven years ago before iPhones and tablets came out. So, we’re seeing a lot more of that today,” optometrist Dr. Nick Feipel said.

Doctors say children’s vision is vulnerable to damage from the blue light used to backlight many multimedia devices. As tech–savvy classrooms transform the way students learn, it’s important for parents to ask questions.

“I think two important questions are: One, how long will the child be on the device throughout the day because if they’re trying to monitor their child at home, they need to know how much they’ve already been on the equipment before they actually get home, and then two, how often will they be taking breaks?” added Dr. Kathleen Busby, who is also an optometrist.

Doctors tell Angie’s List the 20–20–20 rule is an easy way to remember to take breaks. After 20 minutes spent using technology, look 20 feet away from the screen for at least 20 seconds.

“I like to compare it to holding a fist,” Busby said. “When you are staring at a computer screen, your eyes are contracted like you’re holding a fist. So imagine holding a fist for an hour or more at a time and then trying to look up and relax that fist. Your eyes are doing the same thing, which is why I recommend frequent breaks because you just can’t hold that contraction for very long and not have a side effect afterwards of blurred vision or eye strain.”

When it comes to setting screen time limits for your kids, doctors recommend one to two hours a day. They say children under 2 years old should not be watching TV or other screens.