Many parents don't know that screen time hurts their kids' vision, study finds

Photo (c) Paco Navarro - Getty Images

Going to the eye doctor annually can help identify potential vision concerns

A new study conducted by researchers from Michigan Medicine explored the harm that too much screen time can have on kids’ vision.

Their findings showed that excessive time in front of screens can increase the likelihood that children become nearsighted. However, the team says many parents aren’t aware of these risks.

“Many parents may not be aware of both the short and long-term health issues linked to excessive screen time, including its effect on children’s eyes,” said researcher Sarah Clark. “Our findings suggest that some parents may have inaccurate perceptions of activities that affect their child’s eye health and vision to minimize risks.” 

Knowledge gap surrounding screen time

The researchers surveyed over 2,000 parents who had children between the ages of three and 18. Parents answered questions about their kids’ screen time habits, their experience at the eye doctor, how much time they spend outdoors, and other lifestyle habits. 

The survey showed that just half of the parents knew about the effect that screen time can have on their kids’ vision. The researchers explained that a lot of time on devices combined with little time outdoors can increase the likelihood that kids become nearsighted. These vision problems can worsen over time and increase their risk of other complications. 

The researchers also found that less than 30% of parents reported that their kids wore blue light glasses. The team explained that blue light may not affect vision, but it can affect kids’ sleep quality. They recommend that kids stay off screens and avoid blue light within one hour before bedtime.

Eye exams and sun protection

In addition to screen time, the survey also looked at what other factors parents consider important for protecting their children’s vision. Many parents also weren’t clear on the effect of the sun on eyesight, with just two in five parents reporting that they have their kids wear sunglasses when outdoors. Experts have long suggested that parents take measures to protect their kids’ eyes when they’re out in the sun. 

“While parents often make sure their children’s skin is protected with sunscreen, they may not think about protecting their eyes from the sun as well,” said Clark. 

In this study, one in seven parents reported that their kids hadn’t been to an eye doctor in two years. However, to ensure that kids’ vision remains strong and healthy, the team encourages parents to make yearly eye doctor appointments.

“Children should get vision tests at least every two years to make sure eyes are developing properly,” Clark said. “It’s important to identify and treat vision problems as early as possible, because undiagnosed vision issues can lead to serious eye conditions in the future, including permanent vision loss.” 

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