Samira Sine and David Kirsch
The physical effects of blue light on young children
Updated: Aug 18, 2021
Our world today is marked with tremendous technological advancement. Thanks to technology, there have been significant improvements in the ways information is available. Most children have unlimited access to mobile phones, laptops and tablets. These devices are now an integral part of almost every child’s life. The good news is that there are plenty of benefits to having technology in a child's life. We learned that during the pandemic. It kept our kids connected and learning. But we had to pivot quickly and there are some downsides which we hope to address, as well as advocate for at higher levels.
In 2017, the Australian Child Health Poll showed that a third of preschool children, two-thirds of primary school children and almost all teenagers owned their own smartphone or tablet. Children aged six to twelve averaged about 32 hours per week in front of a screen. Two to five years olds had 26 hours of weekly screen time, while infants and toddlers averaged 14 hours.
Although these devices are useful for the educational development of the child, the screens of these devices emit blue lights that can affect the health and overall well-being of children.
What is Blue light?
A full spectrum of visible light is composed of different lights at varied wavelengths. Red light has the longest wavelength, whereas Blue light has the shortest wavelength. Blue light is natural and is emitted by the sun. It is also emitted from fluorescent and incandescent light bulbs.
Effect of Blue Light on the Eyes
Research done by the American Optometric Association shows that at least two hours of continuous usage of digital devices per day is quite enough time for one to develop an array of eye and vision related problems.
Prolonged use of electronic devices affects the overall well-being of your children. It causes musculoskeletal strain as well as circadian disturbances.
In a 2020 study published in the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, the researchers observed that during the COVID-19 lockdown, 32.4 percent of the study population used blue-light emitting device for about 10 to 11 hours a day. Another 15.5 percent made use of the device for about 12 to 14 hours a day.
During the lockdown, So many kids were exposed to a lot of blue light as they spent time watching television, and also used the computer to hold online classes and interact with friends and family.
The effect of blue light on young children include:
Leads to Digital Eye Strain
A research review published in the database of the National Institute of Health, has shown that persons blink less when using laptops, computers, tablets or mobile phones or other digital devices. When children blink less, less moisture is produced in the eye, this causes increased strain on their eyes as it is dry.
When children are exposed to a lot of screen time, the effect of the blue light may cause the following:
Sore or irritated eyes
Weak facial muscles as a result of prolonged squinting.
2. Disrupts effective Sleep-cycle
Children need at least eight hours of sleep. Exposure to blue light from mobile screen late at night may make children not to enjoy proper sleep as it decreases the secretion of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone that promotes feelings of sleepiness.
Observational studies carried out in different parts of the world have shown that screen use by children is associated with later bedtimes and less time spent asleep.
Effect of sleep loss in Kids
Sleep plays an important role in the overall development and functioning of the child. Research has shown that sleep loss is linked to inattentiveness, impulsivity and difficulty in self-regulating.
Children who don’t get enough sleep are also at risk for poorer school performance. And they aren't just hurting themselves. This can affect their classroom and wider community.
How can you reduce your children’s exposure to blue light?
Ensure that children cease using electronic devices one hour before bedtime. Rather, engage the children in other activities like reading, puzzle solving, painting etc. These are calming activities.
Provide your children with blue light filters. These special glasses and screen filters do promise to help to take out the blue light. They also reduce the impact on a child's melatonin production.
Ensure that the children are exposed to enough of sun light during the day. These helps to balance the circadian rhythm of the child.
Red light does not hamper melatonin production. You can provide children with red or orange light reading lamps.
Ensure a child's room is completely dark. You can also provide them with sleep mask to ensure that they sleep properly.
Children’s screen time. Growing up in Australia: The Longitudinal study of Australian children, 2015 report. (2015). Available at https://aifs.gov.au/publications/childrens-screen-screen-time.
What’s Blue Light, and How Does It Affect Our Eyes? Written by Rebecca Stanborough, MFA. 2021. Available at https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-blue-light
How Blue Light Affects Kids’ Sleep written by Alexa Fry. 2021. Available at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/children-and-sleep/how-blue-light-affects-kids-sleep