Blue Light and Children: Protecting Young Eyes

The digital age has brought remarkable advancements, but it has also introduced new challenges, especially for children. As they spend more time glued to screens, concerns about the impact of blue light on their eyes continue to grow. Blue light exposure has been linked to eye strain, sleep disruption, and potential long-term effects on vision. In this blog post, we will navigate the realm of blue light and children's eye health, exploring the risks associated with electronic devices, understanding the importance of restful sleep, and discovering effective ways to protect young eyes from the harmful effects of blue light.

The Impact of Blue Light On Children's Eyes

Children's eyes are more vulnerable to the harmful effects of blue light due to their clearer lenses and larger pupil.  Blue light exposure during critical periods of visual development in children may interfere with the proper maturation of the visual system, potentially impacting visual acuity and other visual functions.  Furthermore, Blue light exposure, especially in the evening, can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating sleep-wake cycles. This disruption can affect children's sleep quality and may contribute to difficulties falling asleep or maintaining a regular sleep schedule.

Data from US population-based studies show that ∼30% of preschool-aged children and between 50% and 90% of school-aged children and adolescents do not get as much sleep as they may need. The pervasive use of screen-based media is a likely contributor to widespread sleep insufficiency. Screen-based media devices are present in the bedrooms of 75% of children, and ∼60% of adolescents report viewing or interacting with screens in the hour before bedtime.

Related Source: Digital Media and Sleep in Childhood and Adolescence

Prevalence of Electronic Device Usage Among Children

In today's digital era, it's no surprise that electronic devices have become increasingly prevalent among children. From smartphones and tablets to laptops and gaming consoles, these devices have seamlessly integrated into their lives. According to recent studies, the prevalence of electronic device usage among children is astonishingly high. Also, EMF (Electromagetic Frequencies) are emitted from these devices in addition to the Blue Light.

The most recent nationally representative surveys of the Pew Internet Project show how immersed teens and young adults are in the tech environment and how tied they are to the mobile and social sides of it. Some 95% of teens ages 12-17 are online, 76% use social networking sites, and 77% have cell phones. Moreover, 96% of those ages 18-29 are internet users, 84% use social networking sites, and 97% have cell phones. 

Related Source: The Impact of Technology On Children And Youth

Strategies For Reducing Blue Light Exposure

With the rise of remote learning and digital resources, children are spending more time than ever in front of screens. While technology offers numerous benefits, it's essential to strike a balance and address the potential risks associated with excessive device usage. You can help reduce your child's exposure to blue light and promote healthier screen habits with these practical tips below:

  • Use blue light filters or night mode settings: Many electronic devices offer built-in blue light filters or night mode settings that can be activated. These features reduce the amount of blue light emitted, making the screen warmer and less harsh on the eyes. Encourage children to use these settings, especially during evening hours.
  • Set screen time limits: Establish clear boundaries on the amount of time children can spend in front of screens each day. Consider using parental control apps or device settings to enforce screen time limits. Encourage them to engage in other activities that don't involve screens, such as reading books, playing outdoor games, or pursuing hobbies.
  • Encourage regular breaks: Encourage children to take frequent breaks from electronic devices. The 20-20-20 rule can be helpful—every 20 minutes, have them take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away. This practice helps reduce eye strain and allows the eyes to relax and refocus.
  • Establish device-free zones and times: Designate specific areas or times in your home where electronic devices are off-limits. For example, you can create a device-free zone in bedrooms or during family meals. This helps promote healthier habits and allows for quality family time without distractions.
  • Use blue light blocking glasses: Consider providing children with blue light blocking glasses specifically designed for their age group. These glasses have lenses that filter out a significant portion of blue light, reducing the impact on their eyes. Consult with an optometrist to find suitable options for your child.
  • Add Blue Light Filters on Prescription Glasses: If you already wear prescription glasses, you can consider getting blue light filters added to your lenses. These filters can block or reduce the amount of blue light reaching your eyes. Otherwise, invest in quality lenses that incorporate anti-blue light coating.
  • Encourage outdoor activities: Encourage children to engage in outdoor activities and spend time in natural light. Sunlight is a natural source of full-spectrum light that helps regulate their circadian rhythm and reduces the negative effects of excessive blue light exposure.
  • Establish a bedtime routine: Create a consistent bedtime routine that includes winding down without electronic devices. Encourage children to engage in calming activities such as reading a book or listening to soft music before sleep. Keeping electronic devices out of the bedroom can promote better sleep quality.