This is a sponsored post written in partnership with VSP
Did you know that by the time the average American child reaches age 17, their eyes will have spent the equivalent of nearly six years looking at digital devices? This figure comes from new survey by VSP® Vision Care that found that while we’re concerned about the increase in our kids’ screen time, only 60% of us are aware that we’re surrounded by blue light thanks to smartphones, tablets, laptops, televisions, and even CFL and LED lighting.
Regardless of how tech savvy you may be, parenting in the digital age requires knowing about blue light and how it causes digital eye strain with symptoms that include tired, sore eyes, headaches and trouble focusing. Blue light enters the eye and is defocused in front of the retina. This causes it to scatter, creating an effect that is visually perceived as glare. Our eyes are forced to work overtime to focus and process the wavelengths of light. A short term effect of blue light is its ability to suppress melatonin production, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. While researchers are studying long term effects, it’s thought that cumulative effects of blue light could lead to possible vision loss.
Despite the impacts of blue light on vision, VSP’s study of 1000 parents show that a good percentage of our fellow parent population doesn’t know about blue light and how it can affect the entire family’s eye health. Of the 60% who were knowledgeable about sources of blue light, only 10% say that they’ve taken steps to reduce their family’s blue light exposure.
Here are some 3 more interesting findings from VSP’s study:
Parents and kids are attached to tech
Nearly two-thirds of parents think their family spends too much time on digital devices and nearly half of parents (44%) went as far as to say their kids are addicted to digital devices. Of course, kids aren’t the only heavy devices users. Parents reported spending almost half their waking hours looking at screens (about 61 hours/week).
Eye health is not parents’ top screen time concern
Only 13% of parents ranked their family’s vision as the top concern when asked what concerns them most about digital device usage.
Parents set screen time limits but find them difficult to enforce
49% of parents currently have, or used to have, limitations on children’s daily device usage but said those rules aren’t enforced. However, it remains a goal for families around the country as nearly two-thirds (63%) of parents think it’s important to unplug from technology.
Based on VSP’s findings, the statistics made me wonder about how many of my fellow parent friends know what blue light is, the amount of time their kids are spending on devices, if they’re worried about how screen time affects a child’s health, and if they think their kids are addicted to technology, so I asked:
“Technology is unavoidable and honestly, uncontrollable,” said Nicole Brady of SAHM Reviews, citing the requirements that schools have to “use iPads and laptops for their homework.” Like students in my kids’ school system, Brady’s children are required to turn in assignments using Google Docs while specialty apps and websites supplement classroom instruction to help students develop a deeper understand of concepts at home. “Textbooks are being phased out. It is the new norm,” Brady observed.
“We are definitely in the screen time battle!” expressed Erin, a mom of an elementary aged son who is currently living in Sri Lanka with her family.
Jeannette Kaplun, founder of Hispana Global and Miami mother of 2 shared concern over the amount of time we are connected to different devices, especially the general addiction that we all seem to have to our smartphones.
“I DO feel that my kid is addicted to technology,” admitted Jeanne Sager, Parenting and Living Editor for SheKnows. “but to be perfectly honest, so am I. I’m the worst role model there is!”
Despite technology being so prevalent in our lives, others shared steps they take to limit screen time in their homes. Krista, a Washington, D.C. fitness instructor and fellow parent felt that while screen are unavoidable, they aren’t uncontrollable.
Tania Reuben, founder of botanical perfume line, Pure Natural Diva, regulates screen time for her kids aside time needed to complete required school assignments. “Most days they aren’t allowed screens in the morning before school, then after school they can earn screen time after dinner.”
Reuben wasn’t the only one who limits time in front of devices to limit exposure to blue light but other parents felt balance was the key to the screen time battles and a healthy relationship with devices to preserve our eye health.
“The balance between on and off tech is getting more and more difficult as we rely on it so much to help in our daily lives,” admitted lifestyle writer, Hillary Chybinski. “My kids play sports and we keep tech off the table and out of the bedrooms, so there are long stretches without it.”
Just as the VSP’s findings revealed, interviewing fellow parents made me realize that the knowledge fellow parents have about blue light varies and vision is not the biggest concern when it comes to our kids’ use of digital devices.
Of the 12 fellow parents replied to my Facebook post, two friends admitted to not knowing what blue light was while four know what it is and actively take steps to reduce its effect on their eyes.
Lisa, a mom of an elementary aged daughter living in Washington, D.C. shared that the hour of screen time her daughter gets a week doesn’t make her addicted to technology but she is mildly concerned how our time in front of screens affects on our health. She offsets her 10 hours a day spent on her laptop, phone, iPad, or other devices by using a treadmill desk at work, using specially designed cases for electronics to mitigate radiation risks, and using a blue light filter in the evenings.
A former colleague of mine from my time working in the school system weighed in on my post to say that not only does she use an app that reduces blue light from her devices but she told her head of technology for her current school district that “they should get a screen filter app for their school issued Chrome books.”
“Whether we’re at home, in a classroom, or at the office, our eyes are exposed to more and more blue light in today’s device-driven world,” said VSP optometrist Gary Morgan, OD. “Technology continues to change the way we live and allows us to be more efficient and connected, but even with its benefits, we must be mindful of the impact of increased blue light exposure on our eyes. While medical research continues to study the possible long-term health impacts of blue light, both parents and their children can take practical steps now to reduce their exposure, ease digital eye strain, and maintain good vision.”
If you want to know more about blue light, combat eye strain from digital devices, and to reduce your child’s exposure to blue light:
- Follow @VSPVisonCare on Twitter
- Like VSP Vision Care on Facebook
- Visit the VSP website
- Read my post, 5 Ways to Help Reduce Your Child’s Exposure to Blue Light from Digital Devices
Huge thanks to the following friends who responded to my Facebook questions about blue light, eye health, and whether their kids are addicted to technology:
- Nicole Brady
- Kim Moldofsky
- Jeannette Kaplun
- Whitney Moss
- Tania Reuben
- Fadra Nally
- Hillary Chybinsky
- Jeanne Sager
- Nichelle Owens
- Lisa Hayes
- Erin Sunde
- Krista Mason
This is part of a sponsored post series with VSP. All opinions are my own.