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Are screens hurting my child’s eyes?

80% of optometrist’s report worried parents when it comes to screen time

Image: AOP. With more screen time firmly on the horizon, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is advising four simple steps that parents can take to make sure their child’s eyes stay healthy this summer.

School summer holidays arrive this week, with children across the UK thrilled at the prospect of six long weeks staying up late, pyjama days watching cartoons and copious hours glued to their phone or tablet – much to the dismay of their parents.

With more screen time firmly on the horizon, the Association of Optometrists (AOP) is advising four simple steps that parents can take to make sure their child’s eyes stay healthy this summer.    

Tips for keeping children’s eyes healthy

Get them outdoors – regular play and exercise can help prevent or reduce the development of myopia (short-sightedness). Studies show two hours of outdoor activity a day is ideal[i]

Use night settings – using night settings, if your device has them, may help children sleep by reducing the amount of blue light given off by the screen during night-time hours

Switch off – make sure digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime

Book a sight test – children should have a sight test every two years, from the age of three, or more often if your optometrist recommends it

Optometrist and AOP spokesperson, Ceri Smith-Jaynes, explains: “A big worry for parents is the amount of screen time their children will have over the summer as watching TV and playing computer games fills up more of their days, as well as their evenings, during the holidays. Research from the AOP, shows us that more than 80% of optometrists have seen parents, in the past month, that have concerns about screen use damaging their children’s eyes.[ii]”

Reassuring parents, Ms Smith-Jaynes said: “There isn’t clear scientific evidence that indicates screen use damages eye health but we do know that long periods of time carrying out near tasks, like reading on screen, can cause eye strain and other symptoms like dry eye and headaches – so it’s important that children take regular breaks.” Commenting on what parents can do to help protect their child’s vision, she added: “Do get your children playing outdoors as much as possible and make sure digital devices are turned off at least an hour before bedtime – to help them settle down before sleep. Remember, your optometrist should be your first port of call if you have any concerns about your child’s eyes; they can assess if there is a problem and provide helpful advice.”

The AOP has produced a leaflet Screen time – facts for parents to help dispel the myths about screen time. Parents can also read our blog How much is too much? on children’s device use.

For more information about eye care and top tips for healthy eyes, see the AOP website www.aop.org.uk/patients

[i] Effect of time spent outdoors at school on the development of myopia among children in China. Randomized clinical trial

[ii] Findings from the AOP Voice of Optometry insight panel, the survey was conducted by independent research company, Alpha Research between March – May 2017. 

[iii] Findings from the AOP Voice of Optometry insight panel, the survey was conducted by independent research company, Alpha Research between March – May 2017. 

[iv] Data from Professor David Thomson, City University, London

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