“What we are doing at VSP is to not create alarm or scare tactics, instead we want to educate people on blue light and let them know things everyone can do to make sure they are protecting their own eyes as well as their children’s eyes. By no means are we saying people should stop using devices or throw devices in the ocean.”
Alan Burt, Sr. Product Manager at VSP Optics Group
My kids are in front of the computer all the time and research shows that exposure to all this blue light which is generated by the computers, iPads and new techie gadgets are damaging to our eyes. They are experiencing more headaches and eye strain, complaining lately on how their eyes are tired and they are only 6 and 8. Now as adults, can you imagine the strain our eyes are under? According to recent research from the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in seven infants, 26 percent of 2-year-olds and 38 percent of 4-year-olds are using devices for at least an hour a day.
Blue light is a high-energy range of light , right next next to UV light on the visible light spectrum. Just as over exposure from UV rays from sunlight can do damage to our skin, over exposure to the blue light from our digital devices can have an impact on our eyes and health. From simple eye strain, to possible disruption of sleep, and potential vision loss over time caused by macular degeneration. However, there are some simple things we can do to protect our children’s eyes and reduce blue light exposure.
- Nearly 90 percent of Americans use digital devices for two or more hours each day.
- Nearly 70 percent of people use two or more devices simultaneously.
- About 65 percent of children spend two or more hours on digital devices each day.
- About 76 percent of Americans look at digital devices in the hour before going to sleep.
- About 65 percent of people report symptoms of digital eye strain. Adults younger than 30 experience the highest rates of digital eye strain (73 percent).
What Can You Do?
5 Tips To Protect Your Kids
- Visit the eye doctor: A simple, annual eye exam is critical for the entire family. A VSP eye doctor can provide the right options to help you or your child reduce eye strain and blue light exposure, including lenses with coatings that reflect and absorb blue light.
- No computer or video games at least two hours before bedtime: The blue light from devices disrupts the body’s ability to produce melatonin which helps us sleep. Reducing exposure to blue light may make it easier for your child to go to sleep.
- The 20-20-20 rule: When kids are surfing the net or doing homework on the computer, make sure they take a break from the screen every 20 minutes and look at something in the distance, approximately 20 feet from them for a least 20 seconds They should also be blinking their eyes slowly during this time to keep their eyes moist and it should help reduce eye strain and headaches.
- Don’t hold screens too close: Remember our parents telling us not to stand too close to the television or it will hurt our eyes? Same rule applies to sitting at the computer or working on a tablet. The screen should be held at a comfortable working distance (arm’s length).
- Lower the screen’s brightness: Having something too bright causes eye strain. In most computers you can adjust the brightness of the screen right from the keyboard or go into the settings. Make sure your kids are turning the brightness down especially during the evening hours to help reduce exposure.
In a telephone interview with Alan Burt, Sr. Product Manager within the optics division of eye care leader VSP, he stated “This whole issue of blue light has crept up, but it is growing at a rapid pace now. We are getting validation from a wide variety of medical circles and other areas – some are saying it is potentially a public health issue on a big scale. This is very important and something we should pay attention to. Specifically, more scientific research is needed to fully understand the long-term effects of blue light exposure. Within VSP’s doctor network, a recent survey found that 83% of VSP eye doctors reported an increase in symptoms attributable to blue light exposure in their patients, including digital eye strain. Everyone is seeing it and we are only at the tip of the issue right now.”
Dr. Gary Morgan, a VSP eye doctor, shared some of his insights, “Eyes start to gain a pigment that helps filter out blue light as we age. The pigment builds as we grow up. But we don’t see this pigment fully mature until people are in their 60-70s, at which time it is known as a cataract.. Therefore, kids may be more susceptible t retinal damage related to blue light because they lack the pigment.” Morgan continues, “Kids are also susceptible to blue light’s harmful effects because they hold devices much closer to their faces. This is called the Harmon distance the distance from knuckles to elbows. For adults, that distance is farther away; usually about 16 inches because they have longer arms For children, the screen is may only be about 8 inches away from their eyes. Therefore, based on the Inverse Square Law that governs light, children are getting 4x the intensity of blue light because of the proximity. Overall, they have no natural protection and are exposed to a greater intensity of the light.”
You might ask, will this increased exposure cause problems down the line? At this point, the data is unclear. “We just don’t know at this point. More and more parents are approaching me with concerns. Five years ago there was zero awareness in the media about this. Now, media is paying attention to this important story and it has spiked concern among parents,” added Morgan.