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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.
  • Eyestrain
  • Headaches
  • 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 oldNone.
    • 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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