Is Screen Time Affecting Your Eyesight?

Jessica Shandrew, Writer

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Is teen eyesight really being damaged from too much screen time? In a poll of Bob Jones students, 57.1% of students said yes. I decided that I wanted to figure out if it truly is affecting teen eyesight for the worst.

There is a new study showing how the use of devices is harming teen eyes to the point of even needing glasses. In the United Kingdom, a company called Scrivens Opticians has shown that the amount of teens that need glasses has doubled over the past couple of years. They found increased reports of both eye strain and increasingly blurred version. Sheena Mangat, a company spokesperson, stated, “Parents always have a long back to school checklist, but getting your children’s eyes tested should be a priority.” How do you know if you need an eye exam? In addition to trouble seeing, some symptoms are headaches, dry eyes, and the constant rubbing of eyes.

In an interview with Tracy Schroeder Swartz, OD, MS, FAAO, ABO, from the Laser Eye Center, in Huntsville, Alabama, I asked questions to get her thoughts on how the use of devices is affecting eyesight and how much screen time she thinks is appropriate for teens. She stated that “American Academy of Pediatrics had suggested a limit of two hours a day of TV for children and teens for years, but this may no longer be realistic as so much of our daily lives takes place on mobile devices.” Dr. Swartz added, “Any task that requires use of the eyes for prolonged periods can make the eyes tired red and uncomfortable. This is because our eyes are open for longer periods of time without rest when we are actively taking in visual information.”

How often should students get an eye exam? Dr. Swartz said that “If glasses are prescribed, yearly exams are recommended to ensure the prescription is correct. If no glasses are needed, there is no family history of eye disease, no eye disease noted at the presenting exam, and no risk of eye or head injury (soccer, football, etc.), two years may be okay.”

Lastly, I wanted to find out if the Dr. Swartz believed that increased screen time was to blame for the increasing amount of teens needing glasses. Dr. Swartz said, “Nearsightedness research suggests that our vision may become blurry far away when our eyeball grows longer. This is why children and teens need new glasses when they grow taller. That said, greater nearsightedness is associated with lots of reading and lack of outdoor activities.” She also said, “It is more likely that mom and/or dad were nearsighted and passed the trait on to their children.” The need for glasses is not entirely from the over usage of devices, as it can also be something that is just simply inherited from your parents. Increased screen time may exacerbate an inherited trait. 

Visual impairments can impact school performance and general well-being, and getting an eye exam may be just what the doctor ordered.

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