Is Too Much Screen Time Making Your Child Sick? What Parents Need to Know

Posted By Key-Whitman Eye Center || 13-Aug-2018

With Texas temps hovering in or near the triple digits, fall may not be in the air – but back-to-school season is definitely here. For most kids, this means vision testing at school. Unfortunately, school vision tests only screen for distance vision and don’t address the new threats technology poses to children’s eye health today.

According to Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Dallas optometrist Amanda Hoelscher, parents should take steps to help prevent the short- and long-term health and vision problems kids experience due to excessive screen time.

The NEW threat: Dramatic increase in near vision demands at school

In recent years, Dr. Hoelscher has seen an increasing number of children at Key Whitman’s North Dallas ophthalmology practice complaining of symptoms of digital vision syndrome, a condition traditionally experienced by adults. What many parents don’t realize is that an increased demand on near vision at school may be compounding the problem for kids.

As she explains, “More of our young patients are experiencing headaches, neck pain and dry eye. These symptoms, which we’ve typically seen in older people, can usually be attributed to increased screen time. This makes sense when you combine time spent using digital devices for fun (gaming, social media, watching videos, etc.) with increased use of tablets and computers for learning.”

CAPTION: Dr. Hoelscher explains how kids describe symptoms of digital vision syndrome and when to talk about reducing screen time.

Beyond the symptoms associated with digital vision syndrome (also known as computer vision syndrome), excessive screen time may also cause other serious health and vision problems.

According to Dr. Hoelscher, “In my practice, we’re just now learning the implications of increased exposure to blue light and what it can do to the eyes long term. Blue light is a spectrum of light emitted from handheld devices, including computers, tablets and smartphones. We know it interferes with melatonin production and sleep patterns and that it may increase the incidence of macular degeneration, a blinding disease.”

School vision tests only scratch the surface – kids need comprehensive eye exams

Today, kids rely more on digital devices and near vision for learning than reading the blackboard like their parents did back in the day. That’s why Dr. Hoelscher says it is critical for children to undergo up-close vision tests.

“Since school vision screenings only test distance vision, it’s important for parents to bring children to an eye doctor to be screened for near vision. During a comprehensive annual eye exam the optometrist tests for both. We also screen children for eye diseases and conditions, which is essential for eye health,” Dr.Hoelscher says.

Bombshell! A traditional eyeglass prescription isn’t the solution when misaligned vision is to blame

Recent research has revealed that headaches, neck tension and eyestrain often afflict people who share a common trait: Their vision is misaligned. Enter neurolens® – the world’s first and only prescription lens that includes a contoured prism to bring eyes into alignment, helping to relieve the symptoms of digital vision syndrome.

CAPTION: Dr. Hoelscher sheds light on neurolens, an innovative technology designed to treat misaligned vision, which can cause digital vision syndrome.

Dr. Hoelscher’s North Dallas location is the first – and currently the only – ophthalmologist’s practice in the Metroplex to offer screening with the proprietary neurolens Measurement Device.

According to Dr. Hoelscher, “The neurolens compensates for vision misalignment, which has been shown to help many patients with digital vision syndrome quite profoundly. It has nothing to do with a traditional eyeglass prescription. It has to do with the alignment of the eye muscles and how they function when looking at objects at a distance and close up.”

Learn how 86 percent of digital vision syndrome sufferers benefited from neurolens technology in this recent post: Suffer from Headaches, Neck Pain or Eyestrain Due to Excessive Screen Time? This New Treatment May Be for You

Five steps parents can take to keep screen time in check

So your child has had a school vision test and a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor, and you hope to bring them in for a neurolens screening soon. What other steps can you take to minimize your child’s screen time? Dr. Hoelscher recommends the following:

1). Encourage them to enjoy activities in the great outdoors. Including outdoor activities in your child’s schedule helps increase the time spent using distance vision. Kids need to have a balance between distance tasks and up-close tasks to prevent strain on their visual system.

2). Plan tech-free indoor activities. It gets HOT in Texas, which makes spending time outdoors a challenge. There are plenty of indoor activities for kids to enjoy, like swimming, tennis, bowling, movies and more. Check ‘em out!

3). Put a reward system in place so kids have to earn screen time. This could be used to encourage kids to help out with household chores or spend time with siblings or an elderly relative. The bonus? LESS screen time.

4). Establish tech-free zones. Whether that means no tech during meal times or in their rooms, it can be helpful for kids to have boundaries. Plus, you never know, you might even end up having more REAL conversations as a family! It’s also a good idea to have kids check in devices with you before bedtime to help ensure a good night’s sleep.

5). Lead by example. If you’re glued to your laptop, smartphone or tablet, your kids will notice and think it’s OK for them to do so too. Less screen time all around means more quality family time.

Does your child need a comprehensive eye exam or neurolens screening?

If you live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, you can schedule an eye appointment for children ages 7 to 17 at Key-Whitman Eye Center’s Dallas, North Dallas or Mesquite locations. (The neurolens screening is currently only available at Dr. Hoelscher’s North Dallas practice.) Simply contact our main office at (972) 905-9128 or set up an appointment online.

ABOUT DR. HOELSCHER:

Amanda Hoelscher, O.D., is board certified by the American Board of Optometry. In her practice, Dr. Hoelscher performs comprehensive dilated eye examinations for diagnosis and treatment of ocular disease, and she is extensively trained in preoperative and postoperative management of cataract and refractive surgery. A graduate of the University of Houston College of Optometry, Dr. Hoelscher also served as a co-investigator for the FDA in LASIK. She sees patients at Key-Whitman’s North Dallas office, a practice dedicated to multi-generational family eye care. In her free time, Dr. Hoelscher enjoys traveling and spending time with her two children.

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

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