Last updated on Jun 21st, 2021 at 03:30 pm

Electronic screens’ blue light can wreak havoc on our vision – particularly for kids. Learn how to protect children from screen time eye damage…

Excessive screen time is widely touted as bad for kids. Besides reducing active play, time spent outdoors and healthy engagement with real people, there is the real risk of eye damage.

This is due to the blue light emitted from the screens of video games, mobile phones, tablets, computers and TVs.

Blue light exposure can cause permanent damage

According to Ruahan Naude, CEO at Dynamic Vision, blue light is harmful to eyes because it has the highest energy wavelength of visible light which penetrates right through the eyes’ natural filters, to the back of the eye.

Over time, blue light exposure can cause permanent damage to the back of the eyes increasing the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and permanent vision loss.

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Children’s developing eyes are sensitive

“While blue light can be damaging to everyone’s eyes, children under the age of 18 are especially at risk because their eyes are still developing. Their eyes do not have adequate protective pigments to filter out some of the blue light so the more time they spend staring at screens, the more their eyes are exposed to the harmful effects of blue light without any protective filtering,” says Naude.

He says that the resulting retinal stress from too much screen time causes watery and irritated eyes, blurred vision and headaches.

“Excessive screen time also contributes to poor sleep because blue light exposure suppresses the release of melatonin, the hormone that tells us when it is time to sleep. The impacts of poor sleep include irritability, fatigue and reduced capacity to deal with daily tasks such as schoolwork. All in all, blue light exposure is a big concern for children.”

Related: The danger of screen time before bed

How to protect children

Limit screen time. The first and most obvious step for parents to protect their children’s eyes is to limit screen time.

This can be difficult to implement, especially for youngsters who are required to work on tablets or computers for schoolwork and homework. Screens on devices can also be dimmed to limit the amount of blue light coming through.

Invest in protective eyewear. A longer term strategy is to get children to wear protective eyewear with blue control, also known as blue filtering, lenses. Blue control lenses can be worn whenever the child is using a device with a screen.

How does blue control eyewear work?

According to Naude, eye glasses with a blue control coating on the lenses can help protect children’s developing eyes against blue light.

They offer filtering capabilities to neutralise blue light emanating from LCD and LED screens. This can help to prevent digital eye strain and its unwanted symptoms such as tired, red or watery eyes, as well as ward off permanent damage to the back of the eyes. Blue control lenses also help to reduce glare from screens and even enhance colour contrast perception, which can help relax the eyes.

“Children do not have to have an eye problem to wear glasses with blue control coating. It is however advisable to ask an optometrist for advice as you want quality lenses which are suited to your child,” he advises.

Reputable eyewear maker, David Green, has a line of Plano standard reading glasses, ‘Off U Go’, with blue control in four different colours.

Eye tests are not required for these lenses, however regular check-ups are advised.

For children with existing vision issues, blue control lenses are available on prescription.

Blue light blocking spectacles by David Green are available at Dynamic Vision Optometrists for R399 until the end of July 2018.

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While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.