If you have kids in your life, you probably worry a lot about their wellbeing. You want them to grow up to be happy and healthy humans — not zombies who zone out in front of a screen for hours a day. Especially if there’s light sensitivity in the family, you’re probably concerned about their exposure to digital light.
Maybe you’ve even thought about getting them their own pair of blue blocking glasses. But are blue light glasses for kids the right solution?
Kids Are Being Exposed to More Blue Light Than Ever Before
As a side effect of modern living, most of us are exposed to digital screens for hours per day. Unfortunately, this includes our kids. And it’s not just video games, smartphones, or watching TV. Chances are, they’re using computers in school. And for those doing virtual learning, their computer time probably adds up to several hours per day. Blue light glasses for kids might seem like a good idea on the surface, but let’s take a look at what science has to say.
Is Too Much Blue Light Harmful to Children?
It’s no secret that excessive screen time isn’t good for anyone, especially kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting children’s entertainment media like TV, gaming, and smartphone use. But still, American kids average 7 ½ hours of entertainment media per day (for adults, the average is 17 hours).
Excessive screen time is known to cause:
- Behavior issues, possibly related to shorter attention span
- Educational problems, especially for school-aged kids with TVs in their bedrooms
- Obesity from being too sedentary
- Sleep disturbances related to digital light affecting the sleep cycle
- Using violence to solve problems
Most adults would agree that too much screen time is bad for any child from a social, emotional, and physical activity standpoint. But if you put all that aside, is the blue light emitted from digital screens really harmful to children?
Overuse of screens is said to contribute to symptoms like eye strain, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, insomnia, and poor posture. These symptoms don’t just apply specifically to kids, but could be a risk for anyone who spends a lot of time in front of a screen. You could argue that you don’t want your child starting out at a young age dealing with these symptoms or any potential eye damage. It just makes sense, right?
However, K. David Epley, MD., then a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) said in a 2018 article, “I prefer to teach kids better habits, instead of supplying them a crutch like reading glasses to enable them to consume even more media. If you run too far and your legs start hurting, you stop. Likewise, if you’ve been reading too long or watching videos too long, and your eyes start hurting, you should stop.”
Maybe because of the COVID-19 pandemic, people have become more aware of the amount of time they and their children are spending inside on digital devices. Perhaps it’s this increased awareness that has led to enormous growth in the market for blue light glasses for kids.
Why Blue Light Glasses Likely Aren’t the Solution
While it’s tempting to buy blue light glasses for your kids (sometimes called computer glasses), it should be noted that blue light is everywhere. Yes, screens emit blue light. However, so does LED lighting, fluorescent lighting, and the sun. In fact, the AAO asserts that you’re likely to get much more blue light from the sun as you do from a computer on any given day.
Digital eye strain aside, it would seem that the AAO doesn’t necessarily equate blue light with eye damage. This 2021 statement made in an article sums it up:
“There is no scientific evidence that the light coming from computer screens is damaging to the eyes. Because of this, the Academy does not recommend any special eye wear for computer use.”
The article goes on to cite a recent study that suggests blue light glasses do not help with symptoms associated with digital eye strain, further stating that:
“The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend blue light-blocking glasses because of the lack of scientific evidence that blue light is damaging to the eyes…The best way to find relief from eye strain is to take breaks.”
What About Kids With Photophobia?
In the case of photophobia, blue light glasses for kids may be just as ineffective as they appear to be for adults. Blue light glasses are not a substitute for photophobia or light sensitivity glasses, which are precision-tinted to block only the wavelengths of light most likely to trigger symptoms of photophobia, including migraine, discomfort, dry eye, nausea, dizziness and more.
If you have a child with this condition, Axon Optics light sensitivity glasses should be considered a viable treatment option.
How to Ease Eye Strain (for You and Your Kids)
The AAO offers the following tips to help potential ease eye strain from digital screen exposure:
- Don’t sit too close to the computer screen; aim for about 25 inches between your eyes and the screen, with a slightly downward gaze.
- Take regular breaks; every 20 minutes, look at something else at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds before looking back at your screen.
- Adjust the lighting in the room and increase the contrast of your screen.
- Use a screen filter if necessary
- Use artificial tears if your eyes feel dry
- Give your eyes a periodic break from contact lenses by wearing your glasses instead
As we discussed in a recent article, blue light blockers don’t appear to be harmful even if you wear them all day. That said, science doesn’t seem to back up blue light glasses for children or adults as a reliable way to avoid digital eye strain.