MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Digital technology has become an integral part of children’s lives in the classroom and at home. While advances in technology may help enhance learning, many digital devices are still relatively new and the long-term effects on young eyes are still being determined.
According to the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) 2015 American Eye-Q® survey, 41 percent of parents say their kids spend three or more hours per day using digital devices, and 66 percent of kids have their own smartphone or tablet.
“Today’s children have had access to electronic devices their whole lives,” says Dr. Nicholas Colatrella, President of the Minnesota Optometric Association and owner of PineCone Vision Center, Sartell, Minnesota. “Since technology use is expected to continue to climb, we need to ensure that children and parents are aware of the visual risks associated with staring at screens for long periods of time and take the proper precautions to help alleviate eye and vision problems.”
Parents should watch for signs of digital eye strain in children, which can cause burning, itchy or tired eyes, headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. To protect children’s eyes and vision, encourage them to take frequent visual breaks by practicing the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away.
Today’s electronic devices also emit high-energy, short-wavelength, blue and violet light, which may affect vision and even prematurely age the eyes. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions in later life such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.
It’s essential to make comprehensive eye exams a priority each school year. “A child’s eyes are still changing between the ages of 5 and 13 years old,” said Dr. Colatrella. “Therefore, during this time, the distance between the lens and the retina is also still changing. When the distance between the two lengthens, we see an increase in the instances of nearsightedness.”
Through the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit in the Affordable Care Act, parents can take advantage of yearly comprehensive eye exams for children ages 18 and younger.