Survey Reveals Parents Drastically Underestimate the Time Kids Spend on Electronic Devices

According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), parents severely underestimate the time their children spend on digital devices. An AOA survey reports that 83 percent of children between the ages of 10 and 17 estimate they use an electronic device for three or more hours each day. However, a separate AOA survey of parents revealed that only 40 percent of parents believe their children use an electronic device for that same amount of time. Optometrists are concerned that this significant disparity may indicate that parents are more likely to overlook warning signs and symptoms associated with vision problems due to technology use, such as digital eye strain.

Eighty percent of children surveyed report experiencing burning, itchy or tired eyes after using electronic devices for long periods of time. These are all symptoms of digital eye strain, a temporary vision condition caused by prolonged use of technology. Additional symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.

When parents think about their children’s’ mobile consumption habits, they often don’t think about how much time they spend on devices in the classroom.  Each year when school starts optometrists see an increase in children complaining of symptoms synonymous with eye strain. Essentially, children are going from being home over the summer with a minimal amount of time spent using their devices or trying to maintain their summertime home use and going back to a classroom full of similar technology.  Under either scenario, they are significantly increasing their usage leading to eyestrain.

Optometrists are also growing increasingly concerned about the kinds of light everyday electronic devices give off – high-energy, short-wavelength blue and violet light – and how those rays may affect and even age the eyes. Today’s smart phones, tablets, LED monitors and even flat screen TVs all give off light in this range, as do cool-light compact fluorescent bulbs. Early research shows that overexposure to blue light could contribute to eye strain and discomfort and may lead to serious conditions such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which can cause blindness.

When it comes to protecting eyes and vision from digital eye strain, taking frequent visual breaks is important. Children should make sure they practice the 20-20-20 rule: when using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes and view something 20 feet away. According to the survey, nearly one-third (32 percent) of children go a full hour using technology before they take a visual break instead of every 20 minutes as recommended.

Additionally, children who normally do not require the use of eyeglasses may benefit from glasses prescribed specifically for intermediate distance for computer use. And children who already wear glasses may find their current prescription does not provide optimal vision for viewing a computer screen.  At Cockrell Eyecare we can provide recommendations for each individual patient.

If you have questions about our topic today or feel you need an eye and vision health exam, please contact us in Stillwater at 405-372-1715 or Pawnee at 918-762-2573.  We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eyecare Center!

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