by Cheryl G. Murphy, OD
Parents are doing as much as they can to safeguard their kids this year. Getting blue light protection for their childrens’ prescription lenses should be on each parent’s “must-have” list.
This year kids are on screens more than ever. Social distancing has left them at home instead of hanging out with friends. To pass the time, some have been engaging in screen activities more than usual. Additionally, the 2020/2021 school year looks like it will involve screens more than ever before. Remote Learning can have kids in front of Chromebooks or on home computers for hours at a time. For those attending school in person, they could have more assignments online instead of on paper compared to previous years. That is why eyecare and eyewear professionals across the nation are recommending annual eye exams and blue light protection for all students college-age and younger.
Blue light, like that emitted from laptop screens, tablets, smartphones or computers, can be harmful to our eyes. Blue light has the potential to not only accelerate the growth of cataracts but studies have shown it may contribute to permanent retinal damage. Besides those physical changes to eye health that cumulative, overexposure to blue light can cause, blue light can also disrupt healthy sleep patterns and cause digital eye strain. To combat digital eye strain, eye care professionals recommend taking frequent breaks from electronic devices by using the 20-20-20 rule. For every 20 minutes of digital device or computer use, take a 20-second long break and look at something 20 feet or beyond. Doctors also recommend making sure the brightness setting on screens is set to as low as possible (you really only need to turn the brightness up beyond 50% in direct sunlight.) Additionally, people should increase the distance they are away from their screens by either holding the device further away or by setting the computer screen at an arm’s length away. Prescription lenses that filter out some blue light are available from eyecare and eyewear professionals as a way for parents to truly ensure they are safeguarding their children from digital eye strain and harmful blue light.
Blue light protection is not the only thing that should be on the minds of parents this year. Parents also have to remember they should still schedule the appointment for their childrens’ annual eye exam if possible in their area. During a comprehensive eye exam, optometrists will examine children to make sure they are not only seeing clearly but also that their eyes are able to work together comfortably and efficiently while performing near work like reading and using a computer. With clear, comfortable, and efficient vision, children will be better prepared to handle their workload and accomplish all of their academic goals.
Adults too can benefit from blue light protection and getting their eyes checked. 2020 has many adults working from home. Constant Zoom meetings and relentless emails and assignments can leave us glued to the screens of our home computers and laptops. Getting your eyes checked, talking to your eyecare and eyewear professionals about your individual visual needs, and heeding their recommendations can provide some relief from the digital stress many of us are feeling during this unprecedented time. So don’t forget, get the best care and protection not only for your childrens’ eyes but for yours as well.