Ask the Experts: Eyes on Screens: Maintaining Your Kids’ Ocular Health in a Digital World

On February 10th, 2021, Children and Screens hosted an eye-opening “Ask the Experts” webinar, “Eyes on Screens: Maintaining Your Kids’ Ocular Health in a Digital World.” Moderated by distinguished ophthalmologist and dynamic interviewer Dr. David B. Granet, Director of the Anne F. and Abraham Ratner Children’s Eye Center and a professor of ophthalmology and pediatrics at the University of California, San Diego, an interdisciplinary group of esteemed experts in pediatric ocular health addressed a variety of important questions regarding how children’s device use impacts their vision, ocular health, and overall well being.

[4:37] To set the stage, Dr. Kenneth Sorkin, expert optometrist with the Long Island Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus, shares parents’ most common concerns around children’s vision. Most current concerns stem from worries about screen time. Dr. Sorkin gives four healthy recommendations to combat these, including keeping your device far enough away from you such that your arms form an L instead of a V, taking breaks, using low screen intensity while maintaining ambient room light, and going outside as much as possible.

[20:10] Joining the call from Dublin, Ireland, Dr. Saoirse McCrann, Doctor of Optometry and Senior Scientific Writer at Novartis, shares the current research on the onset, development and prevalence of myopia, or shortsightedness. While genetics do contribute to myopia, our current lifestyle and increased use of modern devices appear to be contributing to dramatic increases in myopia cases, especially in children. More time spent on screens has been linked to shortsightedness, thus heightening the risk of vision issues amongst younger individuals. Dr. McCrann concludes by encouraging parents and children alike to adopt healthy habits and making small changes, such as putting screens away after a certain time at night, in order to slow myopic progression.

[33:05] Continuing our deep dive into ocular research, Dr. Mark Rosenfield, professor at the State University of New York College of Optometry, continues the group’s discussion on short sightedness. He recommends that adults hold their phones at least 16 inches away, but because children have shorter arms, he recommends children utilize a desktop setup rather than hand-held devices. Dr. Rosenfield also answers the most commonly asked question from this webinar’s audience: do blue light glasses actually work? Dr. Rosenfield and his colleagues have determined through extensive peer-reviewed research that blue-light filters do not have a significant impact on digital eye strain.

[46:45] Discussant Dr. Lauren Hale, Professor of Family, Population, and Preventative Medicine at Stony Brook University, notes that blue light filters do help mitigate the impacts of screens on sleep. Blue light is harmful to melatonin production levels, which in turn negatively affects our ability to fall asleep; however, blue light is not the only reason increased screen use is associated with less sleep for children and teens. Dr. Hale explains that devices are causing too much stimulation very late at night and recommends putting devices away at least 30-60 minutes before going to bed.

[51:35] Expert in Pediatric Ophthalmology and Professor of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Dr. Ken Nischal, informs us of the strain being put on young eyes from staring at screens for too long: we blink less often, hurting the muscles surrounding our eyes and drying out the eyes. Dr. Nischal recommends steps to reduce dryness including: artificial tears, humidifiers, and enabling central heating/cooling systems in the home. In addition, everyone should follow the 20-20-20 rule.

[1:03:23] Just before the live Q&A and discussion, Dr. Andrew Doan, eye physician and surgeon, neuroscientist, screen use expert, and author, made a surprise cameo appearance to discuss behavioral issues that can arise from a surplus of screen time.

[1:05:00] To conclude, Dr. Granet facilitates a dynamic question and answer session with the experts and the audience. Panelists explain that myopia can be prevented by exposure to sunlight; however, too much of it is also harmful, so balance is key! Panelists also discuss how ocular health is essential for overall well being and how parents and children can work together to protect everyone’s eyes.

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The views expressed in this video are those of the experts and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the United States Government. Any mention of products/services does NOT imply endorsement by the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the United States Government.

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