It isn’t uncommon to see kids with smartphones these days. Why shouldn’t they have them? They can be exceptional learning tools, help your children keep in contact with friends and family, be used for emergencies, and can capture some truly great moments.
But how does a smartphone affect the eyes of your child?
For all the good that smartphones do, though, there is a downfall. The bright screens and tiny fonts of these devices may be harming your children’s eyes.
Young eyes are constantly changing and adapting to their surroundings. What happens when the environment their eyes are adapting to is artificial? As it turns out, these seemingly harmless screens may be altering their vision for the worse.
Dry Eyes and the Smartphone
Dry eye is a condition that is normally associated with age. As we get older, our bodies produce less moisture and less mucus that cause our eyes to become dry. This condition is easily fixed by eating an omega-3 rich diet (eggs, salmon, various seeds) and by taking the proper supplements (fish oils, flax seed oils).
We wouldn’t normally expect children to exhibit signs of dry eyes. But, with the constant increase of smartphone use by children, doctors have been picking up on a dry eye trend in children.
Children may experience dry eye symptoms different from adults. It is important to listen to your kids when they complain about their eyes feeling funny. They may lack the vocabulary to fully express what they’re feeling.
Dry eyes can cause a dry and irritating sensation in the eye or sometimes the feeling of a foreign object (despite no object being in the eye). Often, younger children will complain about the latter. It is important to not discount their complaints even if you can’t see anything physically wrong with the eye.
In a sense, letting our children use smartphones without any limits is aging their eyes. There is no reason for children to develop dry eye. The bright lights of these tiny screens seem to be wearing down young eyes much quicker than they should be wearing down.
Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition in which a person has no problem seeing up close but has difficulty seeing objects in the distance. This is the most common refractive error among children and adults.
There have not been enough studies to fully support the argument that excessive use of smartphones cause myopia, but the theory that children adapt to be nearsighted because of constant screen use is a legitimate concern.
If a child spends more time starting at a smartphone that is inches away from their face, it makes sense that their eyes would adapt to see things from that close; especially at such a young age when the eyes are still developing.
Smartphones aren’t the first product to raise this concern. In the past, people have been worried about children spending too much time reading, another close-range activity.
The key is balance. A healthy balance between doing things like reading, drawing and using a smartphone, and going outside to throw a ball around is exactly what your children’s eyes need.
The eyes need to learn at a young age how to see things at a distance and at a close range. This is an important stage in the development of the eyes that smartphone use interferes with.
Digital Eye Strain or Computer Vision Syndrome
Your children are far too young to be experiencing either of these conditions. Digital eye strain and computer vision syndrome (CVS) are two conditions that are closely linked.
CVS refers to the pain experienced due to too much computer use, whereas digital eye strain is a broader condition describing the effects that any type of digital device has on the eyes.
If your child is overusing their smartphone, they’ll likely experience digital eye strain. The symptoms can include eye pain, blurred vision, frequent headaches and neck or shoulder pain.
Again, this is a condition that is often associated with older people, namely office workers or people who work in other professions that require long hours in front of a screen.
A quick fix for this condition is to limit screen use. It’s really that easy. The symptoms will normally go away on their own after a week or so, but it is important to limit your child’s smartphone use in order for them to get better.
Sleep is important for everyone. Overnight is when our body gets the rest it not only needs but deserves after a day of tiring work. Sleep is even more important for children. It is during sleep when the body goes through the most growth.
Without a proper night’s sleep, your child risks developing slower than normal; this goes for the eyes too. The eyes go through spurts of growth and development during children’s sleep cycles. When these crucial nights of rest are interrupted, they eyes don’t reach the level of development they need to properly function.
Blurred vision in the mornings that can last almost all day are not uncommon for children who don’t get enough sleep. It’s normal to experience a certain amount of fatigue first thing in the morning, but if the eyes don’t adjust within the first hour of being awake, then something is wrong.
Smartphone use right before bedtime is often to blame for children not sleeping well.
Although a number of other things could have also kept them up such as stress or overeating close to bedtime, the light from the smartphone tricks your children’s eyes into thinking it is daytime.
When the eyes see that it is light, they send messages to the brain that it is light out. The brain takes this to mean that it is still day time. When the brain believes it is day, it will try to keep your body awake even if you know that it’s time for bed. This can result in interrupted sleep cycles.
Limit Smartphone Use for Your Child’s Eyes
Even with all of the risks we’ve just gone over, we’ll still tell you one thing: don’t take your child’s smartphone away completely. Smartphones are useful tools that can help children in their everyday lives, but there has to be limits. Like anything else, smartphones are only dangerous if used excessively.
It can be hard to monitor your children’s smartphone use, especially if they’re off at school all day. What you can do is set limits at home. For example; no smartphones allowed at the dinner table or during any other meal and no smartphone use an hour before bedtime.
Simple limitations like these can save your child’s vision and help them develop normally and at an appropriate speed.
This post originally appeared on Rebuild Your Vision.