The Hidden Hazards of Digital Devices and Blue Light on Kid’s Eyes

Imagine it’s 2035 and you get a call from your son who proceeds to inform you that, at the young age of 32, he’s going blind as a result of macular degeneration.

Your immediate thought is how is this possible? Macular degeneration is a disease of the old. It is not a disease for young, vibrant people in the midst of their careers, just starting a family, and buying and furnishing their first home.

This cannot be possible…

Your son explains that all of the years playing with your iPhone in children’s lighting a restaurant and playing “educational” games on the tablet you bought him when he was 3, have damaged his eyes.

Blue light emitted from these devices was the cause.

If you had known this at the time, his eye damage could have been avoided with a simple blue light filter for a nominal fee of less than $10. He tells you that he doesn’t blame you because the industry knew and ignored the risk.

You think back to all of the times you handed him your iPhone, or your spouse’s Android, to keep him occupied at dinner with the relatives, at ball games, and while shopping.

You remember the number of times you opened an app for him or a video on Amazon Fire and Amazon Kids.

You recall the time, you and his mother, bought him his own tablet to keep him entertained and how you bought the kids a tablet or iPad so they would leave yours alone.

No one ever told you that his iPad tablet or the Android device, you had lying around the family room, would hurt your son.

You ask yourself, how did this happen? You feel guilty and full of remorse.

You are a good parent. You were very contentious of everything your son did and what he ate.

You made sure he studied, was involved in extracurricular activities and every opportunity was available to him.

The Connected Consumer

The effects of blue light are cumulative and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration

Today’s youth may be known as the “App Generation” or the “Connected Consumer.” They were born during the growth of apps and tablet technology and grew up with devices at their fingertips.

According to a Nielsen Study, more than 70 percent of children under 12 use tablets and iPads. A recent Journal of Pediatrics study showed that:

20% of 1-year-olds own a tablet.

28% of 2-year-olds could navigate a mobile device without assistance.

28% of parents said they use a mobile device to put their kids to sleep.

The use of tablets and smartphones among young children has simply become child’s play, with kids able to skillfully tap and swipe before they can walk or talk.

Other studies have shown that that nearly half of U.S. consumers couldn’t last a day without their mobile devices.

This makes sense because, for many of us, the first thing that we do in the morning is catch up on email before we even get out of bed; our kids are no different.

Kids model parents behavior…

Then, you head straight to your computer at work and spend a majority of the day on it or using one of the many other digital devices, iPads, mobile phones and tablets that are available in today’s increasing technological driven society.

What if you were told that these electronics were negatively impacting your overall health and vision by emitting a dangerous blue light?

This is a factual statement and is a primary concern for eye doctors across the country. The NIH has been studying the impact of blue light on human eyes since the early 2000’s.

Continual extended screen time can impact your eyes in two significant ways.

The first and most common side effect is digital eyestrain.

When we look at a screen, our blink rate drops significantly, and our eyes won’t put up with that for too long without fuss.

Tired Eyes from Digital Screens

Have you ever experienced slightly blurry vision after staring at the computer all day? This is a sign of digital eyestrain.

Do your eyes feel dry, runny or tired after scrolling through your Facebook or Instagram feed, or maybe you get a headache after a few hours on the computer? These symptoms are often so common that we don’t even recognize them as real issues.

Digital eyestrain is temporary. However, if left unaddressed, it can turn into a chronic problem.

The easiest way to address digital eyestrain is to blink more.

This might sound simplistic, but blinking helps to keep eyes lubricated. Another effective way to avoid or help to resolve digital eyestrain is to follow the “20-20-20 Rule” – every 20 minutes, staring at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This exercise engages your distance vision and helps the eye to “reset” and rest.

The more severe impact that too much technology consumption can have on our eyes is damage from blue light exposure.

Blue light is just what it sounds like – it’s a type of light that gives off a blue color.

Blue light is harmful because it’s the highest energy wavelength of visible light.

This energy is also able to penetrate all the way to the back of the eye, through the eyes’ natural filters, and that’s the issue. Long-term exposure causes damage to the retina. Dr. Fran├žois Delori, of the Schepens Eye Research Institute of Mass. Eye and Ear, has been studying the effect of blue light on retinas and the resulting damage.

Blue light is nothing new.

The issue is the amount of blue light exposure that we get each day through digital device use.

With this exposure increasing over time, we are causing permanent damage to our eyes.

The effects of blue light are cumulative and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration.

Children are especially at risk when it comes to the harmful effects of blue light exposure. These days, a lot of homework is done online, and many children own or have access to digital devices, e.g. tablets, Android devices, iPads, iPhones, Amazon Fire and Kindles that they are using for longer periods of time each day.

Tablet light and toddler’s eyes

Evidence shows intense blue light causes damage to the back of the eye and the retina. Exposure in children could lead to early onset macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for those over 50, and to earlier incidences of cataracts.

Intense blue light causes damage to the back of the eye, the retina and exposure in children could lead to early onset macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for those over 50, and to earlier incidences of cataracts.

While we know that blue-light from tablets and smartphones can have long-term effects on our vision, it’s still too soon to tell the extent of the damage. However, there are a few widely accepted tips that will help keep your kids’ eyes healthy until more information is available.

The risk is less for adult eyes that have a natural defense; as we age, the lens starts to yellow, which then acts to block out some of the blue light. The difference for children is that their eyes are still developing and they don’t yet have the protective pigments in their eyes to help filter out some of this harmful blue light.

As children’s eyes are still developing, blue light can penetrate much more efficiently and directly into the retina.

Blue wavelengths are crucial during daylight because they boost our attention, reaction and mood but are disastrous at night as they interfere with circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep.

Just about every digital screen, computer, tablet, and smartphone now uses Light Emitting Diode (LED) backlight because it produces brighter and more colorful images as well as being energy efficient. LED also emits more blue light directly into the eye than previous screen technology like Liquid Crystal Diode (LCD) technology.

The closer we hold the devices to our eyes, the more intense the light exposure, and the higher the risk of possible damage.

This makes smartphones the worst offenders and television the least harmful.

 

 

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