NOW more than ever, we are all spending
more and more time using digital screens. Meetings have become video conferences, schools now have interactive white boards in classrooms (compared to the old whiteboard and marker, or chalkboards) and libraries and books are becoming obsolete as everything we need to know and more is readily available on the world wide web. Parents have growing concerns about how much time their children are spending glued to a screen whether it be the TV or tablet, and rightly so, we all know how easy it can be to hand over a phone and get some quiet coffee time. (All while being on the receiving end of frowns and judgemental glances from across the coffee shop). As children get older and more independent online, finding the right balance for your family can be challenging but it is important to set boundaries early. Screen time can offer opportunities to learn and develop new skills so it can be difficult to outline the educational and recreational uses of the internet.
Here are some facts about digital devices and their visual effects for both adults and children and included are some tips on how to manage your screen use.
BED TIME It is known that using digital devices before bed time may contribute to a poorer night’s sleep which reduces concentration levels during the day. Blue light is known to suppress the hormone melatonin which makes us feel sleepy. It is advised to use night settings on your devices to reduce the amount of blue light emitted from the screen and switch off devices at least 1 hour before bedtime.
20/20/20 RULE It is recommended by most health organisations that screen time should be limited to 1 hour every day for children above the age of 2, whether it be TV, computer or tablets. The 20/20/20 rule is a really simple method of controlling screen use and applies to all (including adults). For every 20 minutes of screen use, look at something 20 feet away, for 20 seconds. Start by setting a timer every 20 minutes until it becomes natural to take regular breaks. This will prevent eye strain; reduce any dry eye symptoms you may have and improve focus and concentration. WHAT IS BLUE LIGHT? Blue light is a high energy visible light which is naturally present in sunlight but is also emitted from digital screens, such as TVs, computers and smartphones. Although there is no evidence that blue light causes damage to the eyes, it is proven that digital eye strain is a consequence of long periods of close up tasks, such as using mobile devices, reading and playing online games. Although digital eyestrain is not permanent, it can be uncomfortable. Other symptoms of eyestrain include, sore and dry eyes and headaches.
BLUE LIGHT FILTERS Current research suggests that digital screens do not emit enough harmful blue light to cause any eye damage. However, following a survey of computer users of above 6 hours a day report that using a blue light filter reduces eye strain and tiredness. The alternative would be to reduce the amount of screen use, especially towards the end of the day to naturally reduce any symptoms.