Digital device use is an issue parents struggle with from shortly after infancy until your child is out of the house. How much time is or is not appropriate? How much time is harmful? Is it OK to use a screen as a babysitter? What kind of material is OK; at what age? What is not OK at any age? What can actually be beneficial? How can I maintain control without being controlling or having it lead to a fight? How do we begin to talk about this stuff?
Answers, and even questions, depend on, and change, every year a child grows. Issues involve psychological and social development, family interaction, and even health. If these are concerns you’re dealing with, or know will be coming soon, please join us for a free presentation of Screenagers: a documentary exploring issues related to device use and today’s youth. The film will be shown at The Lyric Theater in Blacksburg Saturday at 2:00. Following the screening a panel featuring teens, parents and professionals will discuss concerns raised by the movie and how best to address them as a community and in the family setting.
As Optometrists, Dr. Diaz and I are particularly concerned with the effects of digital device use on visual and ocular health. Afternoons staring at a screen are afternoons not spent outside. Research shows that the more time young children play outdoors, the later they’re likely to start becoming nearsighted. And the later they start, the less nearsighted they’re likely to wind up.
As tablets, and especially cell phones, have taken over our lives, screens have become smaller and tend to be held closer to the eyes. This drastically increases the radiation energy the eyes are exposed to, particularly what’s called high-energy visible (HEV) blue light. This specific kind if light may cause damage to the back of the eye, especially when you consider exposure of hours per day for 30, 40, 50 years or more. This light also affects the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Nighttime FB and snap-chatting, even if not done after bedtime, can make getting enough sleep a challenge. Does your child get the 9 hours or more they probably need?
Another eye impact, often not thought about, is dry eye. With concentration, as when hypnotized by a screen, there’s always a tendency to blink less. When you blink less, the eyes get dry. When the eyes get dry, they become less comfortable, and vision, less stable. As a child or teen, this is usually a minor and temporary inconvenience.
But, when this goes on for years, later in adulthood the eyes will stay drier, they will be more prone to infection, vision will be blurred, and quality of life can really be affected. Now is the time to join the conversation so we maintain control of technology and not the other way around.
Please, be our guest at Screenagers at the Lyric Theater at 2 p.m. Saturday. This free event is sponsored by Drs. Jacobs and Diaz, Optometrists, with assistance from The Blacksburg New School, Rainbow Riders Child Care, The Blacksburg Children’s Museum, NRV Macaroni Kid and the Blacksburg Breakfast Lions Club.