Children nowadays spend a lot of time on their gadgets, watching videos, playing games, browsing and even chatting online. What parents may not know is that excessive screen time can lead to a host of problems, including eye conditions.
According to Dr. Michelle Lingao, pediatric ophthalmologist, cataract and adult strabismus specialist and ocular geneticist at Asian Eye Institute, most children who are constantly exposed to gadgets experience digital eyestrain.
“Their eyes get tired from severe gadget use. The longer they stare at digital screens, the higher their risk of suffering from blurred or double vision, headaches or even head or neck pain.
Prone to dry eyes
Children are also prone to dry eyes since they tend to focus on the screen and blink less.
“Tears help nourish and protect the surface of the eyes from dust, infection or irritation. Because they blink less, their eyes dry up faster. They may experience a burning sensation, sandy feeling, excessive tearing, pain and eye redness,” Lingao explains.
“We urge parents to be proactive,” she adds. “Infants and children below the age of two should not be allowed to use gadgets, especially because their brain develops rapidly during their early years. By encouraging them to interact with people, they are able to develop their language and social skills.”
To prevent these eye conditions, young children should take 20-second breaks from gadget use every 20 minutes, make sure that light sources are not behind or in front of their screen, and have their eyes checked at least once a year.
“It is important for parents to take note that comprehensive eye exams help us doctors diagnose and treat their children’s condition early. The earlier we diagnose, the more responsive they are to treatment. It would also be best to keep your children’s screen consumption in check to ensure they have a balanced lifestyle,” Lingao stresses.
Gadget use rules
Parents must spend more time with their children, establish gadget use rules, and persuade them to engage in active play or in other outdoor activities.
It is also important to keep gadgets out of children’s bedrooms. Gadgets emit blue light that mimics daylight and suppresses melatonin; when melatonin is suppressed, children are likely to sleep later, leading to sleep deprivation.
“A few minutes of screen exposure can delay release of melatonin by several hours and desynchronize the body clock,” Lingao says.