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Kid’s Sight & Sleep at Risk from Digital Devices

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Kid’s Sight & Sleep at Risk from Digital Devices

Children are leading a more sedentary lifestyles these days. Instead of playing outside they are indoors playing games on their tablets or phones.  This is resulting in eye problems in children from them concentrating on the screens for too long.  Don Stack, an Eye Specialist recently stated “over the next decade I suspect we will understand a lot more about the effect that excessive use of devices is having.  Here in Ireland there hasn’t been enough publicity about this to inform parents of the risks. Irish optometrists are planning to work on a nationwide promotion encouraging parents to get their children outside.  I know that parents already know this in the high levels of obesity, but there is yet another important reason to push kids outside.”

Scientists advise that children should spend at least three hours a day outdoors in natural daylight instead of been cooped up indoors straining their eyes by playing computer games.  They warn that children who use smart phones and tablets are at risk of irreversible eye damage due to the blue light emissions coming from them.    Children’s eyes are continuously developing which means the blue light from the digital device is able to penetrate directly into the child’s retina. Ongoing exposure to this could lead to macular degeneration when the child reaches adulthood.   Dr Kokkinakis, an Australian Optometrist says “There is no downside to protection against blue light but there are potential downsides in not doing it,” “What worries me is we are giving tablets and phones to children as young as two to play with and over years we really don’t know what the ramifications might be”.

The eye problems children can have vary from dry and irritated eyes, blurry vision, tired eyes and headaches from concentrating on the screen for too long.  Advise your child to take a break from the screen every 20 minutes.  It is also important to get your child to blink regularly so that their eyes are not focusing so intensely on the screen. Under two hours is the recommended time period a child should stay focusing on a screen. Dr Kokkinakis says that closeness and extensive staring at a screen exposes more of the harmful blue light being penetrated into the eyes. Tablets and Smartphone’s are most harmful to the eyes, whereas watching television is less harmful, if you are watching it from a distance.    A recent study in America revealed that retina cells which were grown in a laboratory were totally damaged due to been exposed to the blue light.

Exposure to tablets and Smartphone’s are also resulting in sleep disturbance in children and teenagers. This is due to the Light Emitting Diode (LED) disrupting the child’s natural circadian rhythm.  In brief the circadian rhythm is the physical and mental transformation which occurs in a person in a 24 hour cycle, reacting to light and darkness in their environment. Using a laptop, tablet or mobile phone before going to sleep can interfere with the body’s melatonin levels.  Melatonin is the natural chemical in the body which induces sleep.  A sleep deprived child can have a weaker immune system; have poor concentration levels which prevent him from performing at his optimal levels in school.

In this writers opinion he says that children excessively using digital devises such as tablets, mobile phones and laptops can impair their eyesight and cause sleep disturbances.  I concur with his opinion.  While I think in many ways it is wonderful that children and teenagers are advancing with technology, and this is benefitting them in ways e.g. the child will have a better concept of technology and be able to type from an earlier age.

I do feel however that children are spending far too much time indoors in front of this harmful artificial light, and I notice there are a lot more children wearing glasses now as a result of this.  So if you want your child to be happy and healthy reduce their time in front of the screen and get them to go outside and get some exercise!

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