In today’s world, a Screen is an integral part of our day-to-day activities. Screen time and vision has a very important correlation. We need to understand this to make sure we take necessary precautions while using our various electronic devices.
“Screen time” refers to the amount of time a person spends staring at the digital displays of computers, tablets and smartphones.
Today, screens are used for work, education, communication and leisure. Small amounts of screen time can be useful and enjoyable for families as they enable us to connect with others, be creative and can be used for learning in children.
However, due to their multiple uses, a wide range of screen devices are now easily accessible to children and it is often difficult to control the amount of time spent on screens, instead of taking part in other important childhood activities.
As a result, health care professionals are starting to see some effects on child health and research on this is still emerging.
The time spent in front of a screen, distance from the screen and the quality of the content on screen, has been linked to a number of positive and negative health outcomes.
Some of the positives of screen time include:
Ability to keep in touch with family & friends
Screen time can also play an important role in keeping children connected when they are sick or in hospital, or as a means of distraction.
For children with a medical condition, social media platforms allow them to connect with others with similar conditions and provide opportunities for self-expression and for increasing awareness amongst peers about their condition.
Older children’s use of the Internet helps develop their skills and interests.
Some of the negatives of screen time include:
Weight gain due to inadequate physical activity, over eating or influence by junk food advertisements.
Sleep onset in children is delayed or prevented due to light emitted from screens when viewed in the evening or just before sleeping. Inadequate sleep is in turn linked to weight gain and behavioural disturbances.
Communication skills and ability to build healthy relationships/ friendships may get affected as screen usage isolates children from their environment and interactions with others.
Exposure to potentially harmful information especially hurtful messsages on social media platforms or watching violent content may cause children to behave aggresively as they perceive it to be normal behaviour.
Neck and back strain may develop due to the time spent leaning, or hunched over screens
Eye strain and fatigue may develop due to inadequate blinking while staring at the screen for a long time. Also research has shown that children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to develop short sightedness.
Increased incidence of dry eye with prolonged exposure to screens
For children younger than 18 months, avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting. Parents of children 18 to 24 months of age who want to introduce digital media should choose high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they’re seeing.
For children ages 2 to 5 years, limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
For children ages 6 and older, place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Designate media-free times together, such as dinner or driving, as well as media-free locations at home, such as bedrooms.
Have ongoing communication about online citizenship and safety, including treating others with respect online and offline.
DNB FICO(UK) F.LVPEI
Senior Consutlant, Pediatric Ophthalmology, Strabismus & Neurophthalmolgy