Screen time is at an all time high for most kids which has a number of consequences, many of which are related to excessive blue light exposure. Fear not! There are many simple strategies to help protect yourself and reduce your exposure.
How Blue Light Affects Kids
This is perhaps the most damaging effect that blue light has on children. Our bodies are designed to be exposed to varying types of light from the sun during the day with complete absence of light at night (besides moonlight, starlight, and fire). Blue light is present in sunlight mostly midday but it always comes in the perfect balance with other light spectrums for our biological needs.
All screens and most modern lighting (think LEDs) are very high in isolated blue light giving our bodies the signal that it’s midday. This is a huge problem especially when kids are exposed to blue light at night. This unnatural exposure prevents the body from releasing melatonin, the hormone required for proper sleep and repair. Poor sleep is at the root of many childhood illnesses including behavioural problems, learning disorders, obesity, immune dysfunction and much more.
I’m sure we can all relate to that general blah feeling after sitting in front of a screen for too long. You can’t focus on your work anymore, you feel tired (despite not really doing anything), and productivity declines. The only thing that seems to help is to take a break and step away from screens for a while. This constellation of symptoms including grogginess, poor concentration, headaches, and sore/dry eyes that contribute to making you feel like crap is typically referred to as “screen fatigue.” Although there are a few factors that play a role in screen fatigue, excessive blue light is the main culprit!
If you notice that your child is having a difficult time focusing with online learning, experiences frequent headaches, or has less energy than usual, there’s a good chance they are being exposed to too much blue light.
A wide variety of behavioural and emotional issues can arise with too much screen use. Blue light is extremely addictive. This is the reason why children get completely glued to TVs, phones, computers, video games and any other digital device with bright screens. Have you ever tried taking an iPad away from a child? It ain’t easy! Blue light alters our “feel-good” neurotransmitter called Dopamine, which is involved in pleasure and reward centres of our brain. It may be hard to believe but blue light has similar effects on our brain to certain recreational drugs, gambling and sugar, giving us a quick hit of feeling good but ultimately leading to dependency and craving for more.
Children are especially susceptible to this addiction and overuse of technology can lead to anti-social behaviour, temper tantrums, and attention disorders. It’s important to minimize blue light exposure especially during the crucial years of brain development.
How to Protect Your Kids from Blue Light
1. Take Frequent Sun Breaks
- Take your children outside as much as possible. Whenever they have breaks, the last thing they need is more time on screens! Short walks or outdoor activities can have a major impact on regulating sleep wake cycles as well as offsetting some of the damage from excessive blue light. If going outside is not an option, at least ensure they are not spending more time on screens and devices during breaks.
2. Avoid Blue Light at Night
- As discussed above, blue light exposure at night decreases sleep quality which has massive consequences for our overall health. This is especially important for kids because proper physical growth, development and memory consolidation (learning) all require proper sleep. After the sun sets, avoid the use of screens (especially 2-3 hours before bedtime) and use dim lighting such as candles, salt lamps, or red LED bulbs. If you’re going to be exposed to blue light, the best option is to wear NaturoBlocks Nighttime Sleep Glasses which block 100% of blue light to maximize sleep quality (coming soon!)
- If your kids are on screens (computer, tablet, TV etc) for prolonged periods during the day, consider getting them a pair of blue-blocking glasses to reduce their exposure. NaturoBlocks Daytime Screen Glasses block out 88% of harmful blue light while still allowing a small amount of blue which is important during the day. Most blue-blocking glasses do NOT block the problematic spectrum of blue light that is emitted from these devices (455 nanometers) so beware! You can learn more about how our glasses work HERE