Young children are becoming increasingly attuned to technology due to the rising popularity of smartphones and tablets, as well as child-centred apps and shows. Not to mention, the ubiquitous social media networking platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. When it comes to this increased use of screens, what research is less sure about is the potential impact that blue light can have on your child’s health and vision.
Electronic devices, which includes phones, tablets and computer screens, are all man-made sources of blue light. On the light spectrum, blue light produces the highest amount of energy and has the shortest wavelength. During the day, blue light can be immensely beneficial in encouraging alertness and improving reaction times. But during the night, blue light has been linked to insomnia and disruptions to our circadian rhythms and sleep/wake cycle.
The wavelength of different types of light is key to understanding how blue light affects the health of children and adults. As blue light has the shortest wavelength, it suppresses the levels of melatonin produced by the body’s pineal gland the most. Melatonin is a sleep hormone, that is responsible for regulating the body’s sleep/wake cycle and studies have shown melatonin may increase rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is behind the deep, restorative sleep our bodies experience.
Children and adults, who use blue light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime, are less likely to experience the deep REM sleep our bodies require and will feel more tired and irritable upon waking up.
Blue Light’s Impact on Vision
Prolonged exposure to blue light without breaks can cause eye strain, as high-energy visible light (HEV) light disperses more rapidly than visible light and is less focused. Remind your child to take frequent computer breaks, blink often and apply the blue light filter on their phone to minimise exposure and prevent eye strain. Furthermore, photochromic lenses and glasses with anti-reflective coatings provide protection against UV and blue light to help ensure comfortable vision.
Similarly, you can purchase an anti-glare screen or install a cover over your monitor to reduce the screen’s glare. Further tips to prevent digital eye strain and protect you and your child’s vision, include having your computer or laptop screen at arm’s length from your eyes and checking the screen is at eye level to stop you from being hunched over.
The exciting aspect of digital usage becoming more prominent is that our children are now acquiring new information at a faster rate and being adept at technology allows them to adapt to technological innovations in modern society more rapidly. In addition to following our guidance to protect your child’s vision and sleep from blue light, it is equally imperative that you watch out for your child’s online safety and find alternative sources of supporting your child’s learning and development, for example wooden toys or interactive, hands on presentations at summer camps.