We are often asked this question for young children and teenagers alike. While most of us have an inkling of the answer, we can sometimes find ourselves in a state of denial!
Symptoms of excessive screen time
Scientific evidence strongly recommends that childrens’ use of screens should be limited. ‘Screen time’ includes use of the TV, computer/laptop, tablet, and smart phones. Excessive screen use has been shown to be associated with greater risk of:
- Short-sightedness (aka myopia). Studies show children who spend >2 hours a day on screens, and less than 1.5hrs outdoors, are more likely to become short-sighted.
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and should pain
What about screens versus books?
Studies show that screens can negatively affect the eyes up to 3 times more than physical books for the following reasons:
- Smaller print: Screens tend to have smaller font size which increase the visual strain on the eyes
- Close viewing distance: Because of the smaller font size, children tend to view the screen much closer than books. This further increases the visual load and makes the eyes fatigue faster.
- Lighting: The screen is often brighter than the surroundings, which also contributes to eye strain.
Recommended screen time guideline
According to Australian Vision Guidelines, the recommended screen time for children is:
- 0 to 2 yrs old – None.
- With the possible exception of live video-chatting (e.g. Skype, facetime) with parental support, due to its potential for social development. This may be particularly significant in these travel-restricted times.
- 3 to 8 yrs old – 1 hr per day or less.
- Screen time should be age-appropriate, educational, and with parental support.
- Content should be discussed with the child to help them apply what they are seeing to their real-world environment. E.g. “Bluey had a great time with his friends jumping between the shadows of trees. Have you ever tried this before? Do you think you could have jumped that far?”
- 9 to18 yrs old – 2 hrs per day or less of recreational screen time.
- Ideally, recreational screen time should be limited in favour of outdoor play or exercise.
- Adults – 2 hrs per day or less of recreational screen time.
- Outside of work requirements, it is best to limit recreational screen time to reduce eye strain, headaches and sore eyes.
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