Children’s Screen Time

                Digital devices are ruling our world these days. As inevitable as they are, young children are especially susceptible to effects from screen use. As a mom of two, I definitely understand that sometimes you need a break and the screen can be a great babysitter, but in large doses it can really have a detrimental effect on them. Today I will talk about the issues with excessive screen time on kids and ways to help you limit it for your kids.

Screen use and eye problems

                Here are some of the ways screen time can affect children’s eyes:

                -Eye fatigue: This causes eye discomfort, dimness of vision, and headaches. Long periods of time focusing on screens can cause this. Glare from the screen can also strain the eyes. If your child complains of headaches, eye pain, or feeling tired, they may be experiencing eye fatigue. Another sign of this is if they begin to lose interest in reading.

                -Dry eyes: When we are staring at devices or screens, we blink much less than normal. This causes the eyes to become dry. When the eyes are dry, they feel uncomfortable and vision may be blurry as well.

                -Nearsightedness (myopia): Children who are using screens are typically indoors. We know that kids who spend more time inside are at a higher risk of developing nearsightedness. We think that this is because UV light (as long as the eyes are protected from intense rays) is very important to healthy eye development. So, getting outside in natural sunlight can help decrease the risk of your child ending up nearsighted. The rate of nearsightedness in children has increased dramatically since the introduction of screens.

                Beyond the eyes, too much screen time and regular exposure to poor-quality programming has been linked to obesity, sleep troubles, behavior problems, delays in learning, violence, and attention problems.

Ways to Help Reduce Screen Time

                -Set expectations: Explaining to your children why you are limiting how much time they spend on screens is very helpful. Listen to any questions they have about it and address them beforehand so they understand why it is important to follow the rules. If you like, you can even make a deal with them that if they spend 30 minutes doing something without screens then they can watch TV for 30 minutes afterward. You know your child best and know which tactics work well for them. But- do not give in for demands for screen time! If you aren’t consistent with the rules, they will think if they throw a tantrum each time they will get what they want.

                -Set a timer: This is a great way to limit screentime! It will remind everyone when time is up and it will help you keep track of time spent on different activities.

                -Make a “tech-free” zone in the home: Pick a room and make it free of all screens and put them there. Everyone can relax and disconnect which will help prevent overstimulation.

                -Lead by example: You have to play by your own rules! Kids do not take well to double standards. “Monkey see, monkey do” is so true for children. They will mimic everything you do, so make sure to set an example for them by limiting your screen time as well.

Tips for Proper Screen Use

                I know sometimes screen use is unavoidable. A lot of schools now do a lot of their work on screens. Here are some tips for when they have to look at a screen.

                -The “20-20-20” rule: When we are looking at something up close, like a screen, there is a high demand on our eyes’ focusing system and they need a break. So, every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is a good tip for adults as well!

                -Screen size and distance: The smaller the print and the closer the screen, the harder your eyes have to work to focus. Try to get a larger screen like a computer instead of a small phone screen. Put the computer at least an arm’s length away. You can also position the screen so that you have to look slightly down.

                -Eliminate glare: Reflection from screens make the eyes work harder. So, lower the brightness level on all devices to make viewing more comfortable.

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