The average adult spends 9 hours a day on digital devices and our children are not far behind. Children between the ages of eight and 18 spend just under 8 hours a day with digital media. When the use of more than one digital device at a time is considered, they spend more than 10 ½ hours a day with digital technologies!!! Time on digital devices exposes our eyes to higher levels of “blue light,” leading to digital eye strain, sleep problems, blurred vision, headaches, and neck and shoulder pain.
So what is “blue light”? Let’s travel back to grade school Science class and ROYGBIV. Sunlight is made up of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet light. When combined, it becomes the white light we see. Light rays on the blue end of the spectrum have the shortest wavelengths and HIGHEST energies. The largest source of blue light is the sun, but we have also increased our exposure to artificial sources of blue light including digital screens (TVs, computers, laptops, smart phones, and tablets), energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs, and LED light.
Due to the close proximity of digital screens and the length of time staring at them there is increasing concern over the long-term effects of blue light exposure. Blue light rays, more than other visible wavelengths, create glare that reduces visual contrast and affects sharpness and clarity. This leads to eyestrain, headaches, and physical and mental fatigue caused by many hours sitting in front of a computer or other electronic device. Furthermore, prolonged exposure to blue light may cause retinal damage and contribute to age-related macular degeneration, which can lead to loss of vision.
While digital devices are an important part of everyday life it’s important to encourage good habits for ourselves and our children. Decreasing the amount of screen time is a big step. Even taking frequent breaks by looking away from our devices into the distance is a great first step. Using special screen filters on your tablets and phones will also decrease blue light exposure, and can be especially helpful an hour before bed. Dr. Racoma uses advanced lens treatments on her patient’s prescription lenses to reduce glare, increase contrast, and block excess blue light from reaching the eye. Having an accurate prescription and great lens design to allow for comfortable focusing on your computers and laptops will also greatly reduce eye strain, fatigue, and neck and shoulder pain. And finally, schedule a comprehensive exam for yourself and children where Dr. Racoma can encourage safe and healthy habits from an early age.