Warning over excessive screen use for children

Screentime (1)
(Last Updated On: August 2, 2022)

People across South Devon are being warned about the dangers of excessive screen use.

Televisions, computer monitors, phones and tablets have become a part of everyday life – regardless of our age – and research suggests it’s having a negative impact on eyesight.

One study found that almost a third (31%) of people noticed their vision had worsened since the start of COVID lockdown, with 41% believing increased time spent on electronic screens was the cause .

It’s possible that this increase in screentime could be damaging children’s eyes, with research showing they are twice as likely to experience myopia (short-sightedness) now than 50 years ago .

This could very well be linked to an increase in digital-screen use during childhood, alongside the fact children are spending less time outdoors.

Giles Edmonds, Specsavers clinical services director, says: ‘Whether we like it or not, electronic screens are a part of our lives – including our children’s.

‘Unfortunately, our eyes are not designed to be fixed on a single object for a long period of time, which is why we’re noticing an increase in eye strain and stress in people of all ages.

‘However, by reducing screentime and ensuring we encourage healthy screen habits, we can lower the risk of eye strain and improve children’s eye health.’

Giles has given tips on combatting possible implications of screentime for children:

Set tech-free zones
Banishing screens from certain rooms in the house, such as the dining room and bedroom, doesn’t only helps give children’s eyes a must needed rest – it boosts their mental health too. Research shows children who use electronic screens before bed suffer with poor sleep , which has been link to depression, anxiety, and obesity . Phone use at the dining-table has also been shown to have a negative impact on our mood, hampering our enjoyment while eating with friends and family .

Don’t use screentime as a reward
Rewarding good behaviour with extra screentime (or taking away screentime as a punishment) might seem like a good way of controlling your child’s tech time, but research has found that children who are rewarded with screentime end up spending more time on gadgets than their peers .

Participate in shared screentime
It might sound counterintuitive but by engaging in your children’s screentime, you can keep an eye on what they’re watching and gain insight into what they’re interested in. Talk to your child about what they like about what their watching, then incorporate it into an activity away from their gadget. Recreate your child’s favourite video game in real life or offer to be a living model for their most streamed make-up tutorials.

Lead by example
How can you expect your children to cut down their screentime if you aren’t? A good way to impart healthy screentime behaviour in your child is to lead by example. Ask yourself what screen habits you want your child to follow and display them yourself. No phones at the dinner table? Make sure Mum and Dad keep their phones off the table too.

Encourage healthy screentime habits
Electronic screens are here to stay, so it’s important to instill healthy habits when it comes to screentime. Just a few simple techniques can help reduce eyestrain. Follow the 20:20:20 rule: look up from your screen every 20 minutes and look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Looking into the distance helps relax the focusing muscles of your eyes, which in turn reduces eye fatigue.  Reflections on computer screens can cause glare and lead to eye strain, so try reducing this by attaching an anti-glare screen to your children’s monitor. If your children wears glasses, consider having their lenses treated with an anti-glare coating.

If you’ve noticed a change in your child’s vision over the past few months, or they’ve reported some of the symptoms above, it’s best to arrange an eye test.
Specsavers recommend that children have their eyes tested every year to ensure their eyes remain healthy during this important developmental stage.
For more information, visit: https://www.specsavers.co.uk/childrens-eyecare

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