As a parent, there are more than a few obvious ways in which our kids are growing up in a world that is glaringly different to the way it was for us.
For instance, recent research showed that 70% of all parents wished their kids climbed a tree or got muddy more often. And a third admitted to ‘cotton-wooling’ their kids.
A clear common denominator? Digital devices.
If you’re a parent and you’ve resisted giving your child a digital device until now, don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly. We live in a new and inescapable digital age, and that new media and technology needs to be available to our kids.
But there’s a balance to be struck.
The Vision Council reports that a quarter of all children spend over 3 hours every day using a digital device – and that number is growing all the time as technology creeps into every aspect of home, play and school life.
And while there are clear benefits, the big risk of digital device use is that it can damage your kids’ eyes and vision – both now and long into the future.
It’s obvious that your kids’ eyes are precious – but they’re even more precious than you can imagine. An extraordinary 80% of how we perceive the world is through our eyes, and that’s particularly important when it comes to how children learn and develop from both a social and a cognitive perspective.
Digital devices and kids’ eyes – what’s the problem?
Ever used your phone or stared at a screen for so long that your eyes felt strained, fatigued and dry? Got a headache and blurry vision? Neck and shoulders sore?
It’s called computer vision syndrome, or more recently digital eye strain – and it’s even more damaging when young eyes and vision are still developing. It’s caused not only by forcing ourselves to stare at those weird, pixelated images for extended amounts of time, but also by exposure to high-energy or ‘blue’ light.
Research shows that the prevalence of short-sightedness or myopia in children has more than doubled over the past few decades – and it’s no secret what the main culprit is. Prolonged exposure to blue light can also damage the retina, particularly in children where the eye is more sensitive to the environment.
So as a parent, what can you do?
While understanding that digital devices are here to stay and beneficial, it’s important to teach children that prolonged use can damage their precious eyes and that technology should always be used responsibly and safely.
So together with your children, work towards implementing these simple rules:
1.Keep screen time sensible
Research found that almost 30% of parents let their kids use digital devices for up to three hours a day – and we think that’s too much.
Particularly as little eyes develop, screen time should be kept under two hours a day.
2.Optimise that screen time
When your kids are using their digital devices, it’s important that the environment around them is optimised so as to make it as conducive as possible to good eye health.
For instance, lighting should be adequate, and the screen should be at least 40cms from the face.
An easy way to minimize the effects of eye strain is to ‘rest’ those little eyes every now and then.
When teaching this to your kids, following the easy-to-remember ’20-20-20′ rule. It means that every 20 minutes, remind your child to take at least a 20 second break in order to focus on something 20 metres away. Or better still, put that device down altogether and venture outside for some fresh air.
4.Keep an eye on those little eyes
Keep an eye out for any signs and symptoms that your children’s eye health or vision may already be affected.
If your kids are rubbing their eyes, if their eyes are red, or if they’re complaining of blurred vision, that’s the perfect time to book in for an exam.
5.Correct your child’s vision
If your child’s vision needs to be corrected, don’t fret too much – almost half of all young adults technically need to wear glasses or contact lenses in order to see the world properly.
But it’s then up to you to ensure that your child is getting the full protection and benefits of that corrected vision. For glasses wearers, that means keeping those lenses clean and clear, getting them fitted properly, and wearing them as directed.
And an increasingly popular option for kids is to wear contact lenses. Many parents think they can’t just buy contact lenses online for their kids, but as long as you check with the optometrist, your kids could be among those who absolutely love the idea of ditching their frames.
As with glasses, caring for those online contact lenses is crucial – which means following the manufacturer and the optometrist’s directions, handling, storing and caring for them properly, and discontinuing use if eyes are sore or vision is blurry.
Digital devices – They’re here to stay
They may be beneficial to education and recreation and they’re definitely here to stay in our increasingly digital world, but for the sake of their precious little eyes, it’s imperative that parents help their children use devices including screens, iPods, phones and computers safely. Because the earlier you start to implement good habits, the clearer your kids’ futures will be.
Do your children use digital devices?
What are you doing to safeguard your children’s vision?
Share your thoughts and comments with us.
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