Screen time is a general term that refers to any amount of time spent on an electronic device with a screen. Given the broadness of this definition, there are many activities that count as screen time, including watching television or movies, playing video games, and spending time on a computer, smartphone or tablet.
According to most estimates, the average American adult spends more than 11 hours every single day interacting with or looking at screens. That’s a lot of time! While many adults need to look at screens for hours at a time for work or school, children shouldn’t spend nearly that much time on screens.
The American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry says that most children between the ages of 8 and 12 years old in the United States use screens between four and six hours per day. But what are the repercussions of so much screen time? Could too much screen time harm your child’s vision?
Does Screen Time Affect Eyesight?
Have you ever noticed how tired your eyes feel after hours of looking at a screen? It turns out excessive screen viewing can have similar impacts on children’s eyes. If you spend hours every day staring at the small pixels on a screen, your eyes can become strained from the effort. More teens these days need prescription glasses than they did years ago, and researchers are now saying too much screen time is causing more kids to need glasses.
How Excessive Screen Time Influences Children's Vision
Your child could experience a variety of symptoms as a direct result of too much screen time. These symptoms may include any of the following:
- Eye discomfort
- Frequent headaches
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
It turns out screen time impacts children’s vision in more than one way. In addition to causing eye strain and fatigue, too much time indoors can lead to nearsightedness, according to some studies. Children need outdoor play and regular exposure to natural daylight to develop good farsightedness. It is thought that UV light plays an essential role in the proper development of eye health.
In just the past 30 years, the rate of nearsightedness in children has spiked dramatically. It is thought that too much screen time and spending too much time indoors is at least partially responsible for the rise of nearsightedness in children.
Long periods of time in front of a screen can also cause the eyes to become irritated and dry. Children tend to blink less frequently when they’re concentrating on a screen. This can lead to eye dryness, which can in turn impact vision.
Other Physical Impacts of Too Much Screen Time
In addition to vision and eye problems, excessive screen time can cause other issues in children as well. When children watch too much television or play on electronics for hours at a time, they may be more likely to maintain an unhealthy weight due to inactivity. Here are some additional repercussions associated with too much screen time in children.
- Disrupted sleep (specifically shorter periods of nighttime sleep)
- Depression and anxiety
- Chronic back and neck pain
Excessive screen time can also affect a child’s ability to engage in critical thinking and reasoning. If you’re looking for ways to improve your child’s physical, emotional and mental health, limit screen time and encourage your child to engage in healthy outdoor play. You should also model healthy electronic use yourself and keep bedrooms screen-free.