What doctors recommend for children's eye health amid long screen times

HOUSTON, Texas -- If your teen or child is constantly scrolling through their phone, playing video games or learning virtually, their eyes have probably been exposed to a lot of blue light in recent months.

This particular light is emitted from the screens of many devices and, in some cases, can have an impact on your child's eye health.

"The damage happens at the level of the retina," said Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eyecare officer with UnitedHealthcare. "It hasn't been fully documented, since this is a relatively new phenomenon."

The first step in combatting this potential problem is putting some distance between your child and their device, literally.

"The closer you are to your digital device, the more intense the blue light," Dr. Edmonds said. "So, we like to recommend kids are at a 30 inch focal distance from their device."

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Second, be sure to implement the "20-20-20" rule, which means to have your child take a break from looking at a screen every 20 minutes. Ask them to focus their eyes on an object 20 feet away and hold that focus for 20 seconds before looking back at the screen.

For an extra layer of protection, blue light glasses might be an option, but it's important to purchase from a reputable optometrist to ensure you're getting the protection you pay for.

"When you go to the eye doctor and get a prescription blue filter, it is regulated so the filters we use are all measured," Dr. Edmonds said.

Legitimate blue light blocking lenses usually have a yellow tint or a protective coating.

Many online retailers offer these lenses for sale, but Dr. Edmonds cautions against these purchases because the retailers are typically not regulated.

Lastly, if you have blue light lenses and want to test their effectiveness, here is what you can do:

"The way we do it in the office is we have a cobalt blue pen light, or you can buy a pen light that emits blue light, and shine it through the lens," Dr. Edmonds said. "If the blue light doesn't get through, then you know you've got a good blue light blocker."

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