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How to protect your kids' eyes from the harmful effects of digital devices

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What's the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning and the last thing when you go to bed to at night? If it’s picking up your smartphone or tablet to catch up on emails, then you’re part of the majority; and as Mark Twain once said: whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.

That’s exactly what Dr. Matthew Alpert, O.D.has done. In an article published in the Huffington Post, he explains that “these electronics are emitting a dangerous blue light” which negatively impact not only our vision but also our overall health.

The first and most common side effect is digital eye strain. When we look at a screen, our blink rate drops significantly; and after a while we find ourselves with dry or runny eyes, sometimes followed by headaches. These common symptoms “if left unaddressed […] can turn into a chronic problem.” According to Dr. Alpert, the easiest way to address digital eye strain is to blink more as this keeps eyes lubricated. Another method is to follow the “20-20-20 Rule […] every 20 minutes, stare at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.”

However, exposure to too much technology can have a more serious impact on our eyes. The blue light which is emitted from electronics is harmful as “it’s the highest energy wavelength of visible light. This energy is also able to penetrate all the way to the back of the eye, through the eyes’ natural filters […]”. With our exposure to electronics increasing over time, Dr. Alpert believes that “we are actually causing permanent damage to our eyes. But unlike digital eye strain, the effects of blue light are cumulative and can lead to eye diseases like macular degeneration.”

As mums, our main concern is our children and according to Dr. Alpert, the risk is even greater for them as “[…] their eyes are still developing, and they don’t yet have the protective pigments in their eyes to help filter out some of this harmful blue light. “

Obviously limiting your child’s use of computers, tablets and smartphones goes without saying, but further measures can be taken to protect your kids’ eyes. First of all, the use of electronics should be cut back at bedtime. According to Dr. Alpert, “studies show that exposure to blue light a couple of hours before bedtime actually suppresses melatonin and delays deep REM sleep significantly. “

Second, provide your kids with lenses that filter out blue light; most of Dr. Alpert’s patients who wear these lenses “noticed an immediate increase in eye comfort because of the improved contrast, which helps to relax the eyes.”

If the increasing use of electronic devices for homework and play is inevitable, then protecting our children’s eyes should be a priority. For more information, contact your GP or eye specialist.

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