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The CDC reports that children now spend nearly 9 hours a day on digital devices. Schools are increasing the use of electronic textbooks, which means your child is looking at their digital device for a large amount of the time that they are at school. Children then come home and watch TV or play on their cell phones, meaning more screen time and even more blue light exposure.

Digital eye strain is becoming a more common issue. The symptoms of digital eye strain were usually not felt until age 40, now, individuals of all ages are experiencing this growing epidemic. It is important to consider the length of time a child is on a digital device, the average being around 9 hours. The risk for digital eyestrain is usually determined by the frequency and duration of use of digital devices, as well as the proximity of the screen. According to the Vision Council, 30.1% of children experiences at least one of the following symptoms after being exposed to blue light for more than two hours:

  • Headaches
  • Neck/Shoulder pain
  • Eye Strain, Dry or Irritated Eyes
  • Reduced Attention Span
  • Poor Behavior
  • Irritability [4]

Children have larger pupils which means that they absorb more light. Digital devices use emit blue light, which is has high wavelengths, this means that the light can penetrate deeper into the eye. Since children have larger pupils, which absorb more light, they are affected by blue light more than adults.

While Digital Eye Strain is not permanent, it is aggravating, uncomfortable, and distracting especially in young children that may not be able to communicate their symptoms. Blue light contributes to Digital Eye Strain because of its high frequency. Additionally, LED’s can be bothersome, because of the distinct contrast and sensitivity from the powerful light and surrounding environment. Glare form the devices can also be a factor.

Another cause could also be the amount of times your child blinks. On average, we blink 18 times in one minute. When your child stares at digital screens, it reduces blinking rates, which makes their eyes dry and itchy. Reading in small print on the digital device can exaggerate the symptoms of digital eye strain. The tension caused by eye strain can trigger headaches or migraines. The neck and shoulder pain associated with digital eye strain could be from sitting at a computer for too long or poor posture. The tension that is felt when neck and shoulder pain are experienced can lead to the headaches and eye strain due to restricted blood flow.

Reduced attention spans, poor behavior and irritability in children are usually caused by other symptoms of digital eye strain, like headaches, blurred vision and eye irritation. The problem is that many children cannot express or do not understand what they are feeling, so it presents as behavioral issues.