SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Technology can help us accomplish so many things, but as we learn in this report, too much of a good thing can be harmful to your child’s health. KOLR10 visited a local eye doctor to get a vision of how screen time affects developing kids’ eyes.
There was clear line of sight from Brad Adams to his 3-year-old daughter Kennedy as she got her eyes checked out.
“As a parent, you always fear something happening to your children,” Adams said.
But he worried a supportive dad in the doctor’s office might come across blurry from little Kennedy’s end.
“Whenever she watched TV she would kind of squint and make funny faces,” Adams said. “She always wanted to watch on a tablet or a phone, something that was easier for her to look at.”
Adams visited Mercy’s pediatric ophthalmology wing with the same question we took to Dr. Mark Cascairo just moments before: “Does sitting in front of a screen for many hours of the day hurt my child’s eyes?” Cascairo said.
Admittedly back in the exam room, Kennedy’s parents and the KOLR10 crew all expected to hear the same answer.
“What they’re wanting to hear is they’re wanting me to say yes so that they have a reason to limit their child’s screen time,” Cascairo said, regarding most of his patients.
So what came next, was a bit of a surprise.
“She does need glasses, but they don’t think the technology is affecting it. It’s hereditary,” Adams said.
“According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, there is no solid evidence that any damage is being done to the eyes related to the usage of screens,” Cascairo said.
He explains that there are other, scientifically-backed, reasons your child should take a break from the tablet.
“So children that are on their computers or iPhones late into the night, or even right as they’re laying in their bed on their iPhones, they’re stimulating this awakeness that can disrupt the sleep cycle and that’s not good for a developing child’s health,” Cascairo said.
He warns of another side effect, which is perhaps the simplest, but most significant for children’s social development.
“It’s addictive,” Cascairo said.
Adams knows that to be true as a parent.
“I would say it’s more addictive for the parents because it keeps them quiet and calm,” he said.
Cascairo added, “Easily between age 1 and 2 I see kids asking parents for their iPhone or iPad here in the office, Some of the parents will apologetically say ‘it’s the best babysitter I know of.”
Regardless of your parenting style, Cascairo was just happy all of us left the doctor’s office seeing a bit more clearly.
If you can’t avoid all the screens at night, most devices have a night filter you can use. It will warm up the normally harsh blue light and help you get to sleep. Another easy way to give your eyes and brain a break, is to remember the 20-20-20 rule. After 20 minutes of screen time, you should look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.