Children these days spend an increasing amount of time in front of screens. It has caused parents to worry about your children's vision and overall health. This concern is justified as we are all aware that screens emit blue light which is not good for the eyes, especially that of growing children. But why is it so? This article will help you understand why prolonged exposure to blue light through artificial sources can harm your child's health.
What is Blue Light?
Blue light is one of the seven colors present in the visible light spectrum. It is of a very short wavelength and therefore produces much more energy than the other colors. The largest source of blue light is the sun, but since it is a natural source and contains several other colors of light, it is not as harmful as artificial sources like phones, laptops, tablets, and other sources.
What Happens When Blue Light Falls on the Eyes?
Blue light is not all bad. It is needed to stay alert, improve memory and cognitive function, and also uplift mood. Blue light from the sun is also important for regular growth and development in children. However, it is only good when it comes from natural sources like the sun along with other colors of light. That is why children must be exposed to some amount of blue light from the sunlight in the day.
It is when children are exposed to blue light from electronic devices for extended durations, especially in the evenings and close to bedtimes, is when problems arise.
When children are exposed adequately to daylight, their body responds to the sun's light in order to wake up and also to fall asleep. But when children are exposed to artificial blue light, it influences their circadian rhythm, i.e., their body's sleep and wake cycle.
Why is Blue Light Bad for Children?
Until recently, your child might have used digital gadgets only to play games or watch something. But due to the need of the hour, they have even started attending classes online through laptops, mobiles, and tablets.
Exposure to blue light through electronic devices could cause physical damage to the eyes. Continued exposure can damage the retinal cells and cause the eyes to become dry and irritated. It might even lead to blurred vision. Excessive blue light could also lead to phototoxicity damaging the retina.
It is also important to note that children are more sensitive to blue light than adults. Continuous exposure to blue light can cause serious issues later in life and cause age-related diseases like macular degeneration. It could also be one of the factors that cause conditions like heart diseases, strokes, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Effect of Blue Light On Sleep
If your child is having problems sleeping, you might want to analyze if this change has started occurring with the increased use of devices.
Let us help you understand how we fall asleep before proceeding further.
The hormone Melatonin is responsible for helping us fall asleep, children and adults alike. It is the lowest during daytime when we come in contact with the daylight, and it starts rising as the day goes by. Melatonin keeps rising through the night and peaks and midnight, after which it again starts declining until morning. The blue light that falls on the eye influences the behavior of melatonin.
Now, when children are exposed to blue light in the evening or close to bedtime, the melatonin stays low and gives the brain the perception of daytime. Additionally, watching stimulating content can make it even more difficult to fall asleep.
In teens, increased use of devices around bedtime results in falling asleep late in the night and, in turn, waking up late in the morning.
Thus, prolonged exposure to blue light can cause sleep and mood disorders that can cause depression and anxiety.
Often, lack of sleep caused by excessive exposure to blue light from gadgets can lead to irritability, hyperactivity, lack of focus, and other conditions in children which can be mistaken for symptoms of ADHD.
How can You Reduce the Impact of Blue Light on Your Child's Eyes?
1. Get them Computer Glasses
These days, you can get computer glasses with different tints that block the blue light from entering the eyes and damaging the retinas. Even if your child might not require glasses to read or for other activities, ensure they wear computer glasses while using devices to minimize the damage.
2. Switch On Night Mode On Devices
There are different filters on mobile phones that are not as harsh as blue light and are generally much warmer. Laptops and phones also have a "night mode" option that can reduce the blueness of the screen. Unlike what the name suggests, these filters can also be used in the day.
3. Practice the 20-20-20 Rule
If your child looks at the screen continuously for 20 minutes, encourage them to take a 20-second break and look 20-feet away. Keep practicing this until it becomes a habit.
4. Set A Device Curfew
Do not allow device usage in the evenings or close to bedtime. Set a device curfew beyond which all gadgets must be turned off and kept in a place where they do not have access to it at night. Allowing children to keep their devices with them in the night might tempt them to sneak a peek in the night that might, in turn, keep them awake into the night.
[ Read: How to Reduce Screen Time for Kids? ]
5. Restrict the Usage of Devices in The Bedroom
Declare the bedroom as a no-gadget zone and practice doing homework or taking online classes in another area. Make an effort to associate the bedroom as an area of rest and relaxation.
6. Set a Good Example
Children observe their parents and learn from them. If your child sees you go to sleep with your phone next to your pillow, they will eventually do that too. If the first thing you do after waking up is looking at your phone, your child will do it too. Set a good example by shutting down all your devices and keeping them away from your bed.
7. Go for Regular Eye Check-ups
This one is a must. Often, parents believe that they will be able to notice if there is something wrong with their child's eyes. But, often they will notice only when the child complains of headaches or face blurred vision. Regular checkups ensure that any abnormalities with your child's eye get identified in the early stages.
8. Use of Supplements if Necessary
To fill the dietary gap of nutrients, supplements for general health and eye health can be used to provide nourishment to body and eyes. Make sure you choose a company which offers quality.
Understand that your child is growing and their habits now will have a direct impact on the health they enjoy in the future. While the situations might need them to use gadgets and use screens, you as a parent can help them understand the effects of overuse on their eyes and overall health. You can also help them develop healthy habits that will help them mitigate the effects.