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5 Ways to Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time

Girl sitting in front of tv screenMany of us are spending more time in front of screens, and kids are no exception. Kids socialize on their phones and play video games, and may have spent a large part of the covid pandemic learning online.

However, research has shown that too much screen time is unhealthy for adults and kids. For this reason, it’s important to teach children to adopt healthy screen-time habits.

How Does Screen Time Affect the Eyes?

The Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health study (2019), found that excessive screen time was linked to higher obesity rates, and a tendency to eat more junk foods and exercise less.

The eyes, in particular, are adversely affected by hours spent in front of the screen. This is because screens emit blue light, which has shorter wavelengths and more energy than regular light, and the intensity of the light strains the eyes. There are also questions concerning the damage it can cause to the retina.

Screen time has also been linked to higher levels of myopia in young people, according to an Anglia Ruskin University study (2021). Extensive time spent texting or watching videos on a phone led to a 30% higher risk of myopia, or nearsightedness, in young people, and combined with excessive computer use, the risk rose to 80%.

Another worrying factor is excessive exposure to blue light on the circadian rhythm, an internal clock that indicates when we should be asleep or awake. Hours of blue light exposure prior to going to bed can throw off these patterns and interfere with sleep.

How to Reduce Your Child’s Screen Time

Now the question is how should you implement these new rules? Here are 5 tips to help your child develop healthy habits while they’re still young, and help them preserve their mental and physical well-being, as well as their vision.

Set Limits

Set rules that are clear and easy to adhere to. Think about the number of hours per day you’re willing to allow your children to use the screen either for fun or for homework—factoring in a bit extra for holidays and weekends. For instance, one 1 hour per day during the week and 2-3 on the weekends. Also consider times that should be screen-free, such as during meals, before completing homework or chores, or an hour or two before bedtime.

Get Into a Routine

Once you’ve determined how much screen time should be permitted, create a routine that is manageable and easy to stick to. Setting a structure will reduce disagreements because everyone will know what’s expected of them. We recommend writing up the rules and posting them near the computer or in the family room.

For instance, assign each child an hour of screen time a day and ask them to sign up for specific slots. Leave the dinner hour vacant so no one is using screens at the time.

Set An Example

Setting rules specifying when screen time is allowed and for how long is fairly simple, but following them is a whole other thing! Modeling behavior can positively influence your kids, as they are more likely to abide by the rules if they see you setting limits on your screen time as well. Working together to limit screen time can engender a feeling of cooperation and shared goals. Instead of texting or scrolling or watching videos, spend more time together as a family doing things everyone enjoys.

Discuss WHY Screen Time Should Be Limited

Kids should not only know what the rules are but the reasons behind them. Discuss why it’s important to reduce screen time, including health issues that can arise, and explain how too much blue light can affect their eyes. Understanding the reasons behind rules can make them easier to follow.

Encourage Physical Activity, Particularly Outdoors

Your child might forget about screen time when engaged in fun activities that get the body moving. In fact, several studies have shown that children who spend a significant amount of time playing outdoors lower their risk of developing myopia (nearsightedness). Other studies have linked “near work,” such as reading and spending too much time on digital devices, to the development and progression of myopia. Myopia is more than simply an inconvenient eye condition that requires frequent correction—it can have serious sight-threatening consequences in adulthood. Namely, macular degeneration, retinal detachment, glaucoma, and even cataracts. The faster the progression, and the younger the child, the greater the risk!

So encourage your child to play outdoors for at least 30-60 minutes each day, with siblings, friends or as part of a sports team. Perhaps you can take a walk or a bike ride with them after work, or throw a Frisbee — essentially helping them get into the habit of having fun without depending on screens.

If your child has already developed myopia and you want to limit its progression, contact us today. Dr. Paul Ives, Dr. Alexa Ives, and Dr. Tessa Ives at Ives Eyecare Center can help reduce or slow down myopia progression so they can live their best life.

Our practice serves patients from Murrysville, West Newton, Delmont, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Paul Ives

Q: Does blue light affect myopia?

  • A: A study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology (2018) has shown a link between extended exposure to blue light and nearsightedness or myopia. That’s because blue light has a shorter wavelength and its high frequency penetrates the front of the retina, and can potentially lead to nearsightedness. That said, there’s still more research to be done on the link between the two.

Q: What is myopia management necessary?

  • A: Myopia management helps slow myopia progression using specific proven treatments methods. This also involves making lifestyle changes, such as reducing screen time and spending more time outdoors. The goal is to keep the level of myopia as low as possible in order to reduce your child’s risk of developing vision-threatening eye diseases later in life.
  • References

Can Restricting Online Gaming Time Reduce Myopia Progression?

Two kids playing online gamesThe Chinese government recently implemented a new policy that’s sparked conversations about childhood myopia and online gaming.

Under the policy, Chinese children and teens under the age of 18 are only permitted to play online video games for one hour on weekend evenings and public holidays — a significant reduction compared to their previous online gaming allotment. This restriction includes all forms of video games, from handheld devices to computer and smartphone gaming.

The government hopes to combat a common condition called online gaming disorder, or video game addiction, which affects more than 30% of children in China. Another potential benefit of limiting online gaming may be a reduction in childhood myopia progression, something we explore below.

The Link Between Online Gaming and Myopia Progression

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a condition that causes blurred distance vision. Several factors contribute to the onset and progression of myopia, including genetic and environmental.

Several studies have found that screen time, along with other forms of near work, is associated with higher levels of myopia and myopia progression in children.

According to a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology (2019), children who engage in screen time for more than 3 hours per day have almost 4 times the risk of becoming myopic. Younger children, around ages 6-7, are even more susceptible to experiencing screen-related nearsightedness, with 5 times the risk compared to children who don’t use digital screens.

Limiting screen time may also encourage children to spend more time outdoors in the sun, a protective factor against developing myopia and slowing its progression.

In The Sydney Adolescent Vascular and Eye Study (2013), researchers found that spending at least 21 hours outdoors per week was more important for delaying the onset of myopia than limiting near work in both younger and older children, although both were effective.

What’s the Bottom Line?

Although online gaming can give children a sense of community and togetherness, excessive online gaming can increase a child’s risk of developing myopia and contribute to its progression.

The good news is that parents can make eye-healthy choices for their children that can have lifelong benefits. Limiting near work activities like online gaming and other screen time, and encouraging your children to play outdoors can significantly reduce their chances of developing high (severe) myopia.

How Myopia Management Can Help

The best thing that parents can offer their children to prevent myopia and halt its progression is a custom-made myopia management treatment plan with an eye doctor.

Whether or not myopia has set in already, we can help preserve your child’s eye health and lower their risk of developing sight-threatening eye diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and retinal detachment in the future.

To learn more about our services or schedule your child’s myopia consultation, contact Ives Eyecare Center in Murrysville today!

Ives Eyecare Center offers myopia management to patients from Murrysville, West Newton, Delmont, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and surrounding communities.

Frequently Asked Questions with Dr. Paul Ives

Q: Who is an ideal candidate for myopia management?

  • A: Children, teens, and young adults who are nearsighted or are at risk of becoming nearsighted are ideal candidates for myopia management. If you think myopia management is right for you or your child, speak with us about how we can help. Remember, the sooner your child starts myopia management, the better their outcome will be.

Q: Is myopia management based on scientific evidence?

  • A: Yes! The treatments used in myopia management are all safe and clinically proven to slow the onset and progression of myopia in children and teens. There have been several scientific studies that support its effectiveness.

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