Why Your Kid’s Smartphones are Putting them Through a World of Hurt


It is one of the most addictive items in our homes and most of us, including our vulnerable little ones are hooked. 

In fact, former Google design ethicist, Tristan Harris had famously critiqued the exploitative design of smartphones which intentionally steal our attention against our will. Yet, we constantly underestimate how damaging excessive screen time can be, especially to our children – but at what cost?

A world of hurt

If you’ve ever heard your little one complain about headaches or their eyes feeling ‘itchy’, he/she may be a victim of digital eye strain, one of the many consequences of too much time behind the screen. 

Eye strain is particularly tough on our children’s still developing eyes and on top of headaches and eye irritation, it may cause symptoms of pain, dryness, burning, redness, sensitivity to light and a loss of the eye’s ability to focus correctly resulting in blurred vision.

Yes, those bright, flickering screens often held for far too long and too close to our children’s delicate eyes put them through a world of hurt. How should we cultivate healthy, responsible screen habits in them to prevent these avoidable symptoms from occurring?

The ‘smart’ way of getting to the root of the problem

These days, parents worldwide turn to technology itself, in the form of parental control apps to serve as an extra set of eyes that watches over their little ones.

However, getting to the root of the problem isn’t just about controlling your child; it’s about intrinsically motivating him/her to practice healthy screen habits and have a responsible relationship with technology! 

That’s exactly what the eye health application plano, recognises. Unlike the run-of-the-mill parental control apps, plano combines a scientific approach with a points-based rewards system that reinforces responsible device behaviour from an early age.

A parenting app that combines science and rewards

Supported by the Singapore government and with affiliations to Singapore National Eye Centre and Singapore Eye Research Institute, plano has become an indispensable parenting tool to more than 250,000 households the world over. 

We break down some of its app functions and scientific features specifically designed to protect against the symptoms of eye strain and other vision problems your child is at risk of.

1. Taking eye breaks

If left unsupervised, many of our children could go hours hunched over their screens, scrolling through their endless feeds without taking a break. And we wonder why they constantly complain of shoulder and back pains, headaches and dry eyes!

In fact, research shows that taking regular eye breaks every 30 to 40 minutes by looking at a distance helps the eyes to refocus and even reduces the risk of developing myopia.

1. Prompt shown on the 30th minute.
2. Prompt shown on the 35th minute.

plano’s eye break prompts are triggered every 30 minutes. After 40 minutes have passed, the final prompt will be shown. Children who adhere to these prompts will be rewarded with plano points accordingly.

2. Adequate face-to-screen distance:

plano’s face-to-screen distance tracker ensures that your child follows the recommendation that smart devices are held at least 30cm from the face:

The ‘Too near’ prompt* is triggered when your child’s face to screen distance is less than 30cm. The ‘Way too close!’ prompt is triggered when your child’s face to screen distance is less than 20cm. 

3. Encouraging an active lifestyle

Known as the ‘indoor generation,’ our children these days have adopted a sedentary lifestyle i.e. desk-bound at school, couch-bound at home glued to their smartphones, not going out to play as much as they should be. Unsurprisingly, a mounting body of research has shown that the outdoors is one of the best ways to preserve your child’s eye health. 

1. Kids earn points with safe device habits and browse the Shop for rewards
2. Using their points, they ‘request’ for a reward in their Wishlist
3. Parents can unlock exclusive discounts on Wishlisted items

Plano partners with brands that recognise the importance of an active lifestyle spending device-free time outdoors. plano’s in-app e-commerce platform, plano Shop* features the activities and products offered by these brands which parents can unlock (using the plano points their children have earned following healthy device behaviour) at a heavily discounted price (up to 80%).

Some of these brands include Nestopia by Shangri La, Nerf Action Xperience and Forest Adventure. *Currently only available in Singapore

It’s about time we stop blaming the ‘machine’ and start training the ‘operator.’

Parenting is a confusing, crazy circus act. In this digital age, let’s pause for a moment and ask ourselves how we best teach our little ones the skills that really matter – how to be responsible with their screens. It is only then we can ensure they will go on to lead healthy, happy and fulfilling lives!

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