Blue Light Blues: Excessive Screen Time Straining Eyes
Tuesday, January 18, 2022
Screen time has spiked during the pandemic, leading to concerns about what this is doing to our eyes.
With more people at home - including kids attending school remotely - researchers say Americans are spending an average of 13 hours a day in front of a screen, compared with ten hours pre-pandemic.
Optometrist Scott Edmonds, chief eyecare officer at UnitedHealthCare, said all of that screen time exposes people to blue light - which can do long-term damage to the eye. He said one impact is on people's sleep.
"It suppresses the release of the hormone melatonin, which is our sleep hormone," said Edmonds. "So when you're exposed to blue light late in the day, your sleep can be disrupted."
Edmonds said another concern is that over time, blue light exposure could increase the risk for macular degeneration.
Eye health specialists say people should set devices at least 30 inches from their eyes to avoid damage. Folks also should consider blue light-blocking technology and get an eye exam once a year.
Another tip is the 20-20-20 rule where - for every 20 minutes of computer work - people look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give their eyes rest.
For parents, limiting their kids' screen time can be easier said than done. Richard Halpern, founder of Coach4Parents in Portland, said parents shouldn't be too hard on themselves in these unusual times.
One tip he offered is that parents should set the right example.
"It's really important that parents model device-screen behavior, and also talk about the benefits of not having a phone with everything that we do," said Halpern. "What that's aligned with is helping teach children to self-regulate."
Halpern said parents also should watch some of the media children consume with them in order to discuss its relevance to the real world. And whenever possible, he said parents should take their kids on walks for at least 30 minutes without phones.
"A saying I like is, 'Turn screen time into green time,'"said Halpern. "And if the weather is not accommodating green time, then turn screen time into making art, making music, building something with your hands that's three-dimensional. Just take time away from screens every day, if you can."
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