Perhaps the most commonly asked question by parents of young children is, "how much screen time should they be allowed"?
Until recently, there were no specific guidelines on how much time children should be spending on screens. Fortunately, based on research and date collected over the last few years, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and the Canadian Opthalmological Society have released their suggestions for safe screen use among children.
These days, screens of all types (TV, computer, tablet, phone) are everywhere. They are, for the most part, unavoidable. As such, it's not surprising that we have seen a significant increase in nearsightedness in the younger population. A 2016 study by the University of Waterloo stated that the combination of more screen time and less time outdoors was resulting in 29 percent of children between age 11 and 13 to be nearsighted.
Another report, from a survey done in 2014 on 200 American children, found that 80 percent of participants reported burning, itchy, or tired eyes after using digital devices.
Based on the literature review, the Canadian Association of Optometrists and Canadian Ophthalmological Society say the safe use of electronic screens should encompass the following:
Screen time limits – no screen time (with the possible exception of live video chatting with parental support) for children aged two and under, no more than one hour of screen time per day for kids aged two to five and ideally no more than two hours per day of recreational screen time for children aged five to 18;
Breaks, which include whole-body physical activity, no later than after 60 minutes of use (after 30 minutes is encouraged);
Workstation ergonomics – set chair heights so the child’s feet can lay flat on the floor or on a stool underneath the feet to allow for support, chairs should not have arm rests unless they fit the child perfectly, desks should be set at the child’s elbow height or slightly lower, there should be enough depth on the desk to allow for forearm support, displays should be set in front of the child, the top of computer monitors should be at the child’s eye level and then allow them to move the screen down into a comfortable viewing position as needed and workstation lighting should be equal throughout the visual field;
Screens should not be used within an hour of bedtime or in the bedroom;
Outdoor activity over screen time should be encouraged; and
Regular eye exams, which assess a child’s visual ability to cope with their visual demands and offer treatments for deficiencies.
As always, we are very happy to see children for their routine eye exams as well as any time other concerns may arise with the vision or eye health.