The American Academy of Pediatrics periodically makes recommendations or formulates guidelines for parents to follow in their child-rearing. They recommend certain ages for starting infants on solid foods, how much sleep growing children should try to get as they age and how much media time or exposure to devices that emit blue they should have.
While there is a fair amount of discussion regarding what is or is not appropriate media for children to be exposed to, one thing that is fairly agreed upon is that the average amount of time children spend watching television or using a computer or mobile device exceeds AAP recommendations, according to survey data published in JAMA Pediatrics. There are ages, particularly when children are very young when the AAP suggests zero exposure to digital devices and gradually increase exposure as children grow older. The AAP recommends avoiding digital media exposure for children aged younger than 18 months, introducing children aged 18 to 24 months to screen media slowly, and limiting screen time to an hour a day for children aged 2 to 5 years.
Digital media limitations are important and meaningful ways to keep eyes healthy even as we age. Dr. Palmer Lee, O.D. has stated that “device use should be limited, especially in children. The blue light emitted from devices like TVs and computers has been shown to contribute to retinal complications and the earlier this exposure starts, the more severe it can be.” The AAP guidelines and our own instructions are becoming more and more difficult to follow.
The exposure to blue light digital media is ever-expanding. How we get our entertainment, how our children submit assignments for school, how we work in the modern business world, how we communicate are all examples of how intractable digital use is. From young ages, kids are watching television, playing video games, using iPads, using computers etc.
Dr. Randall Fuerst, O.D. commented, “with activities like video games and smartphone use intertwined into everyday routines, the amount of close work kids do is drastically increasing. Besides affecting a wide range of vision functions, like the use of peripherals, the long-term focusing on a stationary object can also hinder ocular motor function. These factors combine to make eyes less useful when driving, playing a sport, or even simpler activities like maintaining balance or reading.”
Additionally, the time of the day that children are exposed to digital devices is important. Blue light in the evening hours can have a deleterious affect on the ease of falling asleep. The AAP recommends that families to come up with family media plans that can be applied effectively, which would include encouraging digital media use as a shared experience in the family and importantly determine when, where and how often screens are used; and supporting the need for sleep, physical activity and device-free interactions.