Kids are bored? Hand them the Android phone for some screen time. What’s the harm, right? Wrong. The harm is the unseen damage done to their eyes.
Stop that Netflix/YouTube binge
The internet is filled with videos and shows that aim to keep us entertained for hours. With Netflix for children, unlimited access to videos on YouTube, and even Disney+, our children are spoiled for choice. Accessibility and convenience are gifts of the internet age; our kids can access the most popular video content at the mere swipe of a finger and watch them for hours. Gone are the days when we’d have to wait for our favourite movies to be available on DVD for rent, or when satellite cable TV was but a distant dream.
With our children connecting to the internet as quickly as the speed of light, screen time has only increased tenfold. Health experts have reported that children between the ages of 8 to 18 are spending at least 7 hours a day staring at their screens and their eyes are paying the price of it.
The price of a screen
It may have cost you a hole in your wallet, but the screens are costing you your child’s health. A 2 year-old girl was diagnosed with severe myopia after spending long periods of time using her smartphone. While this may be more of an exception than the norm, the number of children diagnosed with myopia as a result of prolonged screen time is increasing exponentially. And how exactly does screen time harm their eyes?
1. Digital Eye Strain (DES)
DES is a vision problem that occurs when you spend too much time staring at the screen. When your child stares at the screen for too long, the rate of blinking decreases. Blinking provides moisture to the eyes and the decreased rate of blinking leaves your child’s eyes feeling tired and dry. Dry eyes can cause irritation and redness in the eye and impair your child’s focus and productivity.
2. Lengthening of the eye
When your children use their phones, they tend to use it at a close distance as well. This causes the eyes to grow and lengthen which is a sign that the eye is losing its flexibility to focus properly unless the object of its focus is nearby. This is a process that causes nearsightedness (myopia) and explains why some children are unable to see far distances.
Beyond vision health, excessive screen time has been proven to lead to other health conditions such as obesity, insomnia, and even anxiety and depression.
Breaking out of the screens
Limiting our children’s screen time is a pertinent matter that we parents have to get our heads around before the worst happens. Throwing out their devices may sound like the easiest solution, but it’s not the most realistic one. Smartphones and their screens are here to stay in the 21st Century and beyond. So, it’s important we teach our children the right habits to control their screen time and protect their health while they’re at it.
1. Get into their screens
To get your child out of the screens, sometimes you need to get into the screens. There is an assortment of screen time apps out there that you can download to minimise your child’s screen time, especially if he/she is on a video-watching spree. The plano App is an app that helps to control screen time effectively.
The app runs in the background of your child’s phone so he/she can watch videos and play games on his/her phone comfortably. But every 30 minutes, the app will prompt your child to take an eye break for at least 1 minute. If your child follows these eye break reminders diligently, he/she will be rewarded with points that can be used in our plano Shop for some fun device-free activities!
As a parent, you can also use the app to schedule no-device times on your child’s phone. For instance, if you set a no-device schedule between 12 noon to 2pm, your child won’t be able to use his/her phone during that particular duration. By limiting screen time for your kids, you’re also helping to protect them from myopia and other health issues.
2. Plan an outdoor activity
One of the best ways to limit your child’s screen time is to bring him/her outdoors! Spending at least 2 hours a day outdoors can help to distract your child from using the phone all the time, and it can even prevent myopia from progressing in your child. Studies have shown that your child is less likely to contract myopia if he/she spends at least 2 hours a day outdoors.
You can bring your child to the park, to the beach, or just for a stroll around the neighbourhood – it’s a much better way for your child to relax instead of spending all day glued to a tiny palm-sized screen. If your child likes to do something more exciting than just a stroll, the plano Shop offers a variety of device-free, outdoor activities like football lessons, fun passes to outdoor play parks, and many more! Your child can request for these fun activities with points he/she has earned from the plano Shop.
Fixing what can be fixed, protecting what can’t.
A screen is easily replaceable. If it’s broken, we simply have to head down to our nearest Telco or phone shop to get it fixed to be as good as new. But your child’s eyes aren’t something we can fix so easily. Sure, there are optometrists and medicines available, but once the damage has been done, it is rarely reversible and your child will have to live with it for the rest of his/her life. This is why it’s more critical than ever that we digital parents help protect our children from the consequences of excessive screen time before it’s too late.