Screens are an ever-growing part of our kids’ lives, and it’s easy to wonder if they’re spending too much time in front of a screen. Monitoring your kids’ screen time is important for two reasons. First, it can hinder development by interrupting hands-on play and parent-child bonding. Second, screens contain blue light, which research now shows can interfere with sleep and eye health.
While screen time is perfectly fine in limited amounts, we also want to support our kids' healthy development.
Limit Screen Time for Developmental Milestones
Experts recommend one hour a day for kids two to five years old, but are no longer specifying a specific length for six and older. This is partially due to advancements in technology. It’s no longer just the TV; from smartphones to tablets to cars, screens are everywhere.
The more screen time they have, the less time they’ll spend developing fine motor skills and exploring the world. Throwing a ball is more than just throwing a ball. They’re discovering how it moves when they hit it, and how to make it go in the direction they want.
Playing games helps kids learn about taking turns, cause and effect, and sharing while also helping you bond as a family. This includes board games like Candy Land, card games like Go Fish, or playing a family game of t-ball in the backyard. Use your judgment and your family’s needs to set the time length. And remember, this may vary by day.
The most important thing is that you’re encouraging your kids to enjoy hands-on learning.
Limit Screen Time for Eye Health
Screens emit blue light, which is now known to interrupt sleep and impact eye health. Limiting screen time at night is particularly important to minimize the impact on your kids’ developing eyes.
This is important for young eyes that haven’t developed the protective pigments that filter out blue light. Their eyes are still maturing, and we want to prepare them for a lifetime of great eyesight!
Blue light also suppresses melatonin production, which helps regulate our circadian rhythms. Extended lack of sleep can lead to health concerns like weight gain and behavioral issues, which is why proper sleep is so important.
Long-term effects of blue light exposure include retinal stress, which could lead to early onset macular degeneration. (This affects adults, too.)
Protecting Your Kids’ Eyes from Blue Light
Limiting your kids’ screen time may not be easy, but it’s an important step in protecting their health. Reducing overall screen time, especially in the hour before bed, can help protect their maturing eyes. You may also consider blue light-filtering glasses when your child is looking at a screen. Perfect for family movie nights, these glasses help reduce eye strain and support healthy melatonin production.
Another way to support your kids’ eye health is by supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin, two carotenoids found in the eye. Bilberry fruit supports long-term eye health, and contains anthocyanosides, which are shown to support retina health.*
We believe that our kids have a bright-eyed future, and that healthy habits, guided learning, and nutrition will give it to them. Let’s support their magical view of the world and give them the head start they need. For more information on screen time, head over to the second episode of the Dr. Sears Family Podcast.
* These statements have not been reviewed by the Food & Drug Administration.