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Your Healthy Family: Can small screens affect a child’s developing eyes?

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Too much screen time may lead to vision problems for children Too much screen time may lead to vision problems for children

For years, experts have recommended that young children limit their screen time.

Now, for many children, the size of the screen is changing – from televisions to tablets and phones.

A recent national survey says that as many as 42 percent of young children have access to their own tablets. Likewise, 98 percent of U.S. homes with children under the age of 8 have mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

According to Marina Eisenberg, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic, prolonged use of small screens can cause eye strain and may contribute to nearsightedness in children.

“Nearsightedness progression is far more detrimental to children at a young age because this is when they’re developing their eyes and their eyes are still growing, especially kids that are in their teens and preteen years,” she said.

Nearsightedness, also known as myopia, is the inability to see objects clearly at a distance.

Nearsightedness runs in families and typically will appear during childhood.

Some children are born with a progressive form of nearsightedness, which means that their uncorrected eyesight will worsen overtime.

Children who are nearsighted often complain of headaches, eyestrain, squinting, or fatigue. They may also complain of not being able to see the board at school.

Dr. Eisenberg said nearsightedness is a slow-growing process, but if parents begin to notice their child is experiencing difficulty seeing things from a distance, it’s time to have their eyes checked.

She said like anything, moderation is key when it comes to how much time a child should spend looking at a small screen.

“Take breaks about every 20 minutes or so and have them try to focus on something far away in the room, have them blink their eyes a few times before going back to the activity that they’re doing,” said Dr. Eisenberg.

Current recommendations say children between the ages of 2-5 should be limited to one hour of screen time per day, while children 6 and older should use screens in moderation. Children under 18 months are not recommended to have any screen time at all.

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