The Truth About Tablets & Your Child's Eyes

Technology is pretty amazing — it allows you to have answers at your fingertips in any given moment, you can be connected to people from all over the world, and it can be used not only to enhance your social life, but also for entertainment value, and as an educational tool for children in classrooms. Even though technology is wonderful and can be used for many educational things (and is a good way to keep your kid occupied if you need to get something done, like dinner), it’s important for you to know, "Do tablets hurt my child’s eyes?"

Scientific American noted that light from your devices is "short-wavelength-enriched," which means that there’s a higher concentration of blue light than natural light. And according to Dr. Heather Ambrosia, Optometrist at Clayton Eye Center in Morrow, Georgia, "Blue light penetrates deeper into the retinal layers, increasing the potential to cause changes to the retinal cells."

She tells Romper, "Some studies have reported retinal cell loss due to blue light exposure, and blue light has the potential of causing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) — a blinding eye disease that is difficult to treat with modern medicine — at an earlier age, or even progressing the signs/symptoms of AMD, which affects the longevity of our eyes."

Since eyes do not regenerate retinal cells, it’s important to preserve these cells starting at an early age, Ambrosia says. "Blue light can cause children to over accommodate, changing their focusing abilities up close, and causing near and distance blurring."

Dr. Jeffrey Schultz wrote in a blog post on his practice website, Lifetime Eye Care, that in a modern world full of computer monitors and screens, as many as 90 percent of all people who look at computers for at least three hours a day experience Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

CVS "refers to instances of eyestrain and eye fatigue that affect those who stare at computer screens for many hours at a time," he noted on his website. Symptoms of CVS include eye fatigue, eye strain, blurry or double vision, eye irritation, dizziness, issues with eye focus, dry eye, headaches, and neck pain, to name a few.

Ambrosia says that though CVS affects people of all ages, "Studies indicate that children are more susceptible, because their focusing system is undeveloped and workstations are arranged for adults."

According to Schultz, tips to prevent or reduce the chances of experiencing CVS include, "The 20-20-20 rule, where after staring at a screen for 20 minutes, look away and focus on an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds … this can go a long way in avoiding eye fatigue." Additionally, you can reduce monitor glare by adjusting the lighting in your home (making it lighter) so the glare isn’t as bright, encouraging your kids to stay 20 to 28 inches away from the screen when using it, and tweaking the monitor or screen brightness settings.

"The factory settings on your monitor aren't always the best. Be sure to tweak the brightness, contrast, and text size so that your eyes don't have to work so hard," he wrote.

As far as how much time you should let your kids use screens? Ambrosia says, "Studies have not indicated a time limit to using digital devices. However, I do think it is important to monitor the use at night before bed and consider [having your kids wear] glasses that block blue light."

There's no shame in giving your kid an iPad, whether it's for educational purposes, or so you can pee alone. And it seems pretty easy to ensure there's no permanent damage to your child's eyes, as long as they take a lot of breaks, aren't too close to the screen, or they wear glasses that block blue light. If you're concerned about your child's sight or they're showing any of the symptoms of CVS, it's always a good idea to check in with your optometrist, just in case.