Nowadays, children are growing up with a wide variety of technological devices at their disposal. Life without phones, computers, or the internet is not fathomable for them.
According to Common Sense Media, almost 50 percent of children from 0 to 8 years old use a table and get an estimated 2.25 hours of screen time. With the rapid technological developments, today’s parents are the first generation to find out ways to restrict screen time for their children.
Despite providing endless hours of entertainment, educational material, and a source of distraction for an angry child, unlimited screen time can be detrimental. It is essential to evaluate the effect of too much screen time that could affect the harmony of the family.
Effects of screen time
Development for toddlers under the age of 3 is achieved very quickly. Instinctively, they know that learning comes from exploring their environment. Watching and imitating adults in their daily lives is one of the best ways that the child learns how to behave and interact with others.
Spending too much time on a digital screen may inhibit the toddler’s capacity of observing and experiencing the world. Their engagement in daily activities with their parents is a crucial step in their primary socialization.
Failure to achieve this milestone may lead to a ‘tunnel vision’ that will delay the child’s early childhood development. According to recent studies, a child under two years assimilates more when interacting with a person than watching a video.
Researchers also suggest that babies of six months may appear to watch TV but they do not understand and learn from it. Their comprehension is usually established around the two years old mark. From one and a half to three years of age, the language development of toddlers broadens quickly.
Studies state that language is best learned when adults are talking and playing with babies. Some evidence claim that children from early elementary school years have difficulties with reading tests and short attention span because of excessive screen time.
What is blue light?
Along with excessive screen time comes the effect of blue light on children. Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green and blue light rays.
They merge together to form so-called visible light, also known as white light or sun rays. There is a whole spectrum of lights that differs according to their wavelengths.
Blue light has a shorter wavelength, high-energy, and falls under the violet-blue band of the spectrum, hence its name ‘blue’ light.
Blue light is an important factor in the regulation of our circadian rhythm (our sleep-wake cycle). However, our exposure to blue light is increasing exponentially and we are slowly feeling the physical impacts on our health.
The presence of blue light supresses the production of an hormone called Melatonin. It promotes feelings of sleepiness. Our sleep-wake cycle has evolved and is now based on the rising and setting of the sun.
During the day, natural light inhibits the production of melatonin and the reverse happens at night. Blue light also increases the level of energy produced by our body which also improves our concentration.
Studies have shown that natural blue light promotes good-quality and longer sleep duration. Yet, using blue-light at night disrupts our sleep-wake cycle because our body thinks it is still daytime. Levels of melatonin are still low which makes us feel less sleepy at bedtime.
Studies have shown that a third of children aged 3-5, two-thirds of those aged 6-11, and nearly all adolescents own either a phone or a tablet.
Moreover, parents of children from 0 to 6 years old have admitted that they use screens to distract, appease, or to keep their children occupied. Now in 2021, it is reliably assumed that these statistics have increased drastically.
Phones and tablets are now accessible for most parents with their competitive prices and apps like YouTube, Tik Tok, Instagram and Snapchat are targeting children users.
Consequences of blue light on children
The Australian Child Health Poll released the findings of a survey that stated that children aged six to twelve spend an average of 32 hours per week on screen time.
Those aged two to five have 26 hours of screen time and babies and toddlers spend 14 hours. With this alarming statistic, it is obvious that excessive blue light will have various repercussions on the younger generations.
Researchers state that having screens close to our eyes, such as playing on a mobile phone for a long time increases eye strain.
Digital eye strain is a condition that happens when people spend a lot of time using their near vision on digital screens. A typical example would be a child watching a video on the screen.
It may not cause permanent damage but they may experience temporary blurred vision, tired eyes, sore and dry eyes, and a headache.
Also, your child’s concentration levels may be lowered during the day when screens are used close to bedtime. This is due to poorer and shorter sleep duration.
As mentioned above, melatonin affects sleep in both children and adults but children are more sensitive to light. Their pupils are larger compared to adults ones.
The structures in the eyes also change and become less sensitive to light with age. Researchers have found that blue light exposure at night suppresses melatonin twice as much in children than in adults.
This also depends on the developmental stage of the child. The study stated that children pre-puberty experience more melatonin suppression than adolescents.
How can we prevent this?
Fortunately, the market has provided blue light blocking glasses specially designed for children to minimize the effect of blue light.
They effectively reduce the amount of blue light that enters children’s eyes. Blue light blocking glasses from Defendershield are one of the most effective at protecting your child’s eyes during the day and night.
The company has not compromised comfort over quality. There are added silicone ear hooks that can be adjusted according to children’s preferences.
Too much blue light disrupts children’s sleep and this may lead to difficulties in concentration, attention span and eye strain.