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How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids' Eyes

How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids' Eyes

At first glance, allowing your child to use gadgets seems harmless. With these devices, they can learn and have fun while watching videos and playing games. But, according to experts, too much screen time affects the kids’ eyes. What happens when children spend too much time staring at their gadget screens?

They may develop eye strain

Using gadgets typically requires prolonged focused attention, which can tire the muscles of the eyes. Eye strain or eye fatigue can result, causing several symptoms like watery or dry eyes, soreness, itching, and headaches.

Glares or the reflection on the screen can also make it difficult for the kids to see clearly. This causes them to squint, which also results in eye fatigue.

To prevent eye strain, limit your child’s screen time. Additionally, make sure that they are taking frequent breaks, and they are at a safe distance from the computer or gadget. Learn more about preventing eye strain in children here.

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It increases their risk of developing nearsightedness

Nearsightedness or myopia is an eye condition where a person cannot see clearly at a distance, or unless objects are placed close to their line of sight.

Interestingly, The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAP) mentioned that kids who spend more time indoors (using their computer devices) have a higher risk of developing myopia compared to children who spend extra 40 minutes of their time outdoors.

It’s still unclear how spending time outdoors reduces myopia risk, but researchers believe that natural sunlight is essential for the kids’ eye health. Of course, this is as long as they wear eye protection like sunglasses.

It messes up the eyes’ “focusing system”

Too much screen time also negatively affects kids’ eyes because it can temporarily mess up the eyes’ focusing system.

Experts explain that focusing on the same distance for an extended period can “lock” the eyes’ focusing system (accommodative spasm). This means that once your child takes their eyes away from the screen, they may have difficulty focusing.

Please take note that accommodative spasm results in blurry vision. The good news is, this condition is temporary and reversible.

They may have dry eyes

One of the possible symptoms of too much screen time is dry eyes. Studies show that people who spend too much time focusing on their screen blink less often; this can dry out the eyes and cause irritation.

For children, though, it could be worse at times.

In most cases, laptops and computers are situated above their visual field. This makes them open their upper eyelids wider, resulting in faster evaporation of the eye’s natural moisture.

How much is too much screen time?

After knowing how too much screen time affects kids’ eyes, let’s discuss the acceptable screen time for children. According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry:

  • Children younger than 18 months should not have screen time exposure save for supervised video-chatting with a relative or loved one.
  • Between 18 and 24 months, children should only have supervised educational screen time.
  • For children aged 2 to 5, limit screen time to 1 hour daily.

As your child grows, the one-size-fits-all limit no longer works. For instance, school-age kids use gadgets for their lessons and homework; limiting gadget use to an hour or two may not be attainable.

how too much screen time affects kids' eyes

How can parents intervene?

When a consistent screen time limit is not possible, remember that you can still do the following:

  • Remind your child to take frequent breaks; teach them the 20-20-20 rule.
  • Encourage them to spend time outdoors, but don’t forget to give them sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen).
  • Set no-gadget zones in the house and during specific activities. For instance, no gadgets in the dining room; no screen devices in the car.

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Furthermore, monitor your child’s school assignments. If you are aware that they have finished their tasks, discourage them from using their gadgets. Instead, keep them busy with other fun, offline activities, or household chores they can enjoy and learn from.

Learn more about Child Health here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids’ Eyes
Accessed January 5, 2021

Is Too Much Screen Time Harming Children’s Vision?
Accessed January 5, 2021

Vision Development: Childhood
Accessed January 5, 2021

Give Your Child’s Eyes a Screen-Time Break: Here’s Why
Accessed January 5, 2021

Cognitive demand, digital screens and blink rate
Accessed January 5, 2021

Screen Time and Children
Accessed January 5, 2021

Screen time and children: How to guide your child
Accessed January 5, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated May 26
Medically reviewed by Victor Ephraime V. Paulino, MD, DPBO