Although the excitement of the holidays has come to a close, many kids are basking in the joy of new toys, electronics and games. Speaking of the kids … has anyone seen them? They are likely playing on their tablets and gaming devices or busy texting their friends.
New gadgets can be fun for those of any age. But research shows that kids are spending significantly more time on digital devices than parents realize. According to a recent study, U.S. teenagers spend an average of nine hours a day looking at digital screens.
Whether it is watching TV, playing video games or using social media, excessive screen time can cause health problems including digital eye strain. Common symptoms of eye strain include:
- Dry eye
- Red, irritated or itchy eyes
- Focusing problems
- Neck and shoulder pain
Creating family guidelines for screen time is a great way to help kids prioritize their health and vision and enjoy their devices at the same time. Here are some tips to get started:
- Get your children’s eyes examined every year by a board-certified ophthalmologist. Regular eye exams are the best way to treat conditions like digital eye strain, focusing problems or refractive errors.
- Limit entertainment screen time to less than one or two hours per day. In addition to causing eye problems, excessive screen time has been linked to obesity, lack of sleep, school problems and behavior issues. Avoid screen time for children under two years of age.
- Put all devices away at a certain time each night and charge devices in a common area like the living room or kitchen (not in children’s bedrooms).
- Encourage kids to have unstructured play time, outdoor play and human interaction as well as screen time. Remember the days of board games and playing with cardboard boxes? Those activities facilitate important skills like problem solving, creative thinking and reasoning. Introduce your kids to the kinds of play you used to engage in as a child.
- Try to watch TV shows as a family so you can talk about themes and values together.
- Look for apps and games that are educational and replace some of your children’s allotted entertainment screen time with educational screen time (Source: Healthy Children).
A new year is all about fresh beginnings, so this is the perfect time to set healthy family boundaries for electronics. Talk to your ophthalmologist or pediatrician if you need more suggestions on setting guidelines for screen time.