Screen Time & Children: How to Help Your Little Ones Navigate the Virtual World
With a shift to online learning, protecting your kids from blue light is crucial. 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.
This is a concern in all of us (kids and adults alike!), but blue light affects children more than it affects adults. This is due to the fact that the crystalline lens of the eye is not fully developed yet allowing more light to penetrate through. Children’s pupils are also larger than adults, meaning they are able to take in more harmful blue light than adults do.
Fear not! There are many simple strategies to help protect your little ones and help to reduce their 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.
I’m sure we can all relate to that general blah feeling after sitting in front of a screen for too long. Productivity and attention decrease, you feel tired, and the only thing that seems to help is to take a break and come back later. This constellation of symptoms like grogginess, poor concentration, headaches, sore/dry eyes that contribute to making you feel like garbage is typically referred to as “screen fatigue.” There are a few contributing factors but blue light is the main culprit of screen fatigue! If you notice that your child is having a difficult time with online learning, there’s a good chance they are being exposed to too much blue light.
Mental Health Concerns
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 centers of our brain. It may be hard to believe but blue light can have similar effects on our brain to gambling, sugar, and even certain recreational drugs, 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.
Headaches and Migraines
Is your child complaining of headaches or migraines that they never had before? Screens (computer, iPad, phones, TVs, video games) and artificial lighting are common triggers for headaches in children. This may be due to the fact that excessive blue light creates reactive oxygen species leading to cellular damage (especially in the eye). This happens in all of us, but little ones are often particularly sensitive to the effects!
Increased Appetite for Sugary Foods
Have you noticed that your kid is reaching for the cookie jar more often since switching to virtual learning? That’s because blue light boosts the body’s primary stress hormone cortisol, which leads to blood sugar instability. With long term exposure to blue light this can lead to insulin resistance, leptin resistance, and changes in neurotransmitter function (especially dopamine), which can all cause sugar and carbohydrate cravings. Yikes
How to Protect Your Kids from Blue Light
1. Frequent Sun Breaks
Take your children outside as much as possible. Whenever they have breaks, ensure it does not turn in to a TV or video game break! 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, its time to get creative in the home to ensure they are not spending more time on screens and devices during breaks. Some ideas: put on a playlist and dance, cook, draw, journal, puzzle, crafts, clean (haha, good luck with this one!), or run up and down the stairs.
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 some blue which is important in small quantities during the day. Most blue-blocking glasses do NOT block the problematic spectrum of light (455nm) that is emitted from these devices so beware! Shop now or learn more about how our glasses work.
3. Use Blue Light Filtering Software
4. 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. And this is especially important NOW because of all the increased screen time during the days! After the sun sets, avoid the use of screens (especially a few hours before bedtime) and use dim lighting such as candles, salt lamps, or red LED bulbs. Another option is to wear NaturoBlocks Nighttime Sleep Glasses which block 100% of blue light to maximize sleep quality (coming soon!).
Parents, you have taken on the impossible during this past year. We see you protecting your kids at every turn of this pandemic, now trying to help your little ones navigate this increasingly virtual world. You’re doing a great job! We hope this helps to ease some of the stress.
Disclaimer: The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, prescription or cure of any disease or health condition. All content, including text, graphics, videos, images and information contained on or available through this website is the opinion of the author and for general educational purposes only. NaturoAcademy makes no representation and assumes no responsibility for the accuracy of information contained on or available through this website, and such information is subject to change without notice. Any action you take upon the information from this website is strictly at your own risk.