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Children experience massive, early use of and exposure to all types of screens such as smart phones, computers, tablets, consoles and television. The exposure and interaction with screens has been growing and becoming a real addiction, as per health professionals and early childhood experts in their warning to parents. Tablets and smartphones, are constantly being used to distract kids and keep them quiet, and they are also perceived as educational. This makes screen time hard for kids to avoid.

According to one study, the average child (between the ages of 4 and 14 years of age) spends three hours a day watching TV, and up to seven hours total staring at a screen. Teens recently told Wall Street Journal reporters that they watch YouTube / Tik Tok videos every chance they get. Add video games, TV, phone time with friends, schoolwork, and tablet media consumption and you can rack up a lot of HEV rays or blue light exposure.

A Nielsen study found that 70% of tablet-owning parents of kids under 12 let their children play with the tablets. Common Sense Media found that 30% of toddlers have a TV or tablet in their bedrooms. Kids under one year of age spend twice as much time with electronic devices as they do with books. According to the Ordre des Optométristes du Québec, 20-25% of children between the ages of 5 and 14 have various visual problems requiring treatment by an optometrist. Without realizing this, parents allow their children to be exposed to many risks that can contribute to a number of eye problems or eye troubles.

Your child’s eyes don’t filter blue light as well as yours do. Because children’s eyes have larger pupils and more transparent lenses than adults, light streams into them more freely. (One recent study showed that the transmission of blue light through a 9-year-old’s eye is 1.2-times higher than that of an adult.)

The key for all parents is to fully understand the impact that blue light has on a child's well being, so that proper action can be taken to minimize exposure when it is not entirely necessary.

We all need to ensure we get a good night's sleep, but this is especially true for our growing children who are still developing and rely on a good night's rest to be able to manage their moods and environment during the day. Poor sleep quality/ disrupted sleep patterns may mean that your child’s concentration levels are lower during the day. Blue light is proven to disturb sleep patterns, which results in the accelerated production of cortisol and releases melatonin even more slowly than it does yours.

Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation have pretty shocking consequences in many areas. It's linked to reduced learning capacity and poor academic performance.

Blue light stimulates your brain, slowing or stopping release of the sleep hormone melatonin. That makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep," and this generally messes with a child's hormonal patterns. A 2016 study on children of preschool age found that higher artificial light exposure from their environment contributed to an increased BMI and increases the long-term risk for developing obesity. There is also evidence that disruption of the circadian rhythm may be connected with diabetes, obesity, and heart disease.

Moods can be altered, and this may effect behavior as a whole. Exposure to blue light at night can lead to the over-production of "adrenaline, dopamine, serotonin and cortisol," and these can be strongly connected to a series of mental disorders and attention focusing issues. Best Health Mag states that Insomnia / sleep loss is among the leading causes of a series of mental disorders:-

Digital eye strain happens when a lot of time is spent using near vision, for example, reading on screen or playing online games. Digital eye strain does not cause permanent damage to your eyes but can be uncomfortable. Evidence suggests that carrying out near tasks, involving looking at something close-up, such as using mobile devices, screen time and reading a book, can increase eye strain for those who do this for long periods of time. It increases the chances that a child will become astigmatic, myopic or hyperopic in adulthood.

One of the main symptoms is temporary blurred vision but other signs such as sore and tired eyes, dry eye and headaches are also associated with digital eye strain.

Children especially, are at particular risk of macular damage from blue light because their eyes are not as efficient at filtering out the rays.

Short-sightedness, or myopia, is increasing throughout the world. Family history, ethnic background, environment (living indoors, in cities) and carrying out near tasks, such as screen use, have all been linked to the development of myopia.

In a study, preschoolers ages 3 to 5 whose screen usage was greater than what is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) completed cognitive testing and brain imaging. Their parents also completed a survey about screen usage. The results revealed that kids with higher screen usage had lower measures of brain structure that support skills such as language and literacy.

Tips for keeping your child’s eyes healthy

Recommendations from optometrists and opticians, based on the age of the child:-

According to some studies, before the age of 2, non-interactive screens such as those used for television and DVDs have only negative effects. They can cause visual disturbances, weight gain, delayed language, a lack of concentration and attention, and should therefore be avoided for infants.

At this age, children need to build their temporal and spatial guidelines hence, good vision is extremely necessary. Between 2 and 3 years of age, exposing children to television in a passive and prolonged way and without an interactive, educational human presence is strongly discouraged.

From the age of 3, screens help children to distinguish between the real and the virtual. They will be able to copy and imitate what they see. However, they should not spend more than 1 hour per day in front of a screen (all devices combined).

Between the ages of 3 and 6, a child needs to develop all of his manual and sensory possibilities hence the programs and applications chosen must be of high quality. It is also recommended that parents are present in order to explain what their child is seeing and how it applies to the world around them. Again, it is recommended that children not exceed 1 hour of screen use per day.

Between 6 and 10 years of age, it is important for the social development of the child to be established hence it is best to set a certain amount of screen time per day so that the child can discover social gaming and involve themselves with others.

From 9 to 12 years of age, children need to explore the world and its complexity.

From the age of 12, parents must monitor possible nighttime screen use because it can be harmful. Good use of these screens allows an adolescent to improve control over emotions and thoughts, actions and decisions.

However, excessive use of screens and especially the Internet can reduce memory as well as the ability to synthesize the personal and consciousness. It also causes drowsiness, difficulty concentrating and eye problems. Vision is essential to a child’s learning experience and this can be reflected in academic performance, when one observes a decline.

Hydrogen’s protective effects includes its potent antioxidant properties selectively scavenges free radicals thus reducing oxidative stress, and anti-inflammatory properties effectively reduces inflammation. Learn more how Hi-Bliss Hydrogen Therapy can help to take care of your eyes here: https://hi-bliss.com/skin-eyecare-programs/

References:-

Although it is environmentally friendly, blue light can affect your sleep and potentially cause disease. Over the last few years (prior to COVID-19), the amount of time we spend glued to our electronic devices has steadily increased, and the pandemic (plus the ensuing lockdowns) have exacerbated the situation since most interactions have gone virtual.

This means the amount of blue light to which we are exposed has also seen a substantial increase. And if you are wondering whether the blue light from your smartphone (and other devices) is harmful, the answer is a resounding yes. Extraordinary pressure on the retina, dry eyes, fatigue, and disturbed sleep cycles (or disturbances to the circadian rhythm) are only some of the harmful effects caused by addiction to our tablets and smartphones. Researchers have learned that blue light can also lead to vision loss. Worse, research shows that it may contribute to the causation of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, depression, and obesity.

What Is Blue Light?

Not all colors of light have the same effect. Blue light, also known as high-energy visible (HEV) light is a high-energy visible light and has shorter wavelengths. It has the highest energy level and the shortest wavelength (detectable by the human eye) of all the visible colours. Its main source is sunlight; thus, we all get our fair share of it when we’re out in the sun. It is known as blue light because it is on the violet-blue band of the spectrum.

Blue wavelengths ~ which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost alertness, helps memory and cognitive function, elevates mood, plus regulates circadian rhythm seem to be the most disruptive at night. Blue light is emitted by digital devices, including laptops, tablets, smartphones, notebooks, and computers. The proliferation of electronics with screens, as well as energy-efficient lighting, is increasing our exposure to blue wavelengths, especially after sundown.

Though, the blue light exposure you receive from screens is small compared to the amount of exposure from the sun, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure because of the close proximity of the screens and the length of time spent looking at them.

How Does Blue Light Affect the Eyes?

Almost all visible blue light passes through the cornea and lens and reaches the retina. This light may affect vision and could prematurely age the eyes.

Early research shows that exposure to intense amounts of blue light may be harmful to the eyesand could lead to:

Blue light from computer screens and digital devices can decrease contrast leading to digital eyestrain. Bad lighting, or how you sit in front of the computer can cause eyestrain. Symptoms of eyestrain include sore or irritated eyes, dry or watery eyes, blurred vision, headaches, facial muscles fatigued by squinting, and difficulty focusing.

Studies suggest that continued overexposure to blue light over time could lead to blurry vision, cataracts, anddamaged retinal cells as occurred in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), an eye disease that can blur your central vision. This concern comes from the fact that blue light and ultraviolet light place oxidative stress on the retinal pigments.  

Human eyes have receptors that contain a photopigment called melanopsin that is sensitive to blue light. Exposure to blue light is detected by the eyes and signals the pineal gland (a tiny organ deep within the brain that produces the body’s melatonin) to suppress the secretion of the hormone melatonin (a sleep hormone that helps to regulate your circadian rhythm). By suppressing the secretion of melatonin, this results in a disruption of the sleep-wake cycle.

In short, screen time, especially at night, is linked to poor sleep. The blue light from electronic devices messes with your circadian rhythm, or sleep cycle. It signals your brain to wake up when it should be winding down.

Blue light exposure might raise your risk for certain cancers. One study found that people who work the night shifts are at greater risk for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers.

Another potentially serious condition that can be caused by high night time exposure to blue light was linked to increased risk of depression or depressive symptoms in animal studies. However, exposure to blue light during the day may have the opposite effect and it has been used to treat seasonal affective disorder, or SAD (a form of depression related to the changing of the seasons).

Not many know about blue light’s negative effects on the skin ~ which can stimulate photo-ageing and over time lead to skin discoloration, inflammation and a weakened skin surface.

The findings from a preliminary study observed from a group of lighter-skinned people by exposing them to visible blue light, showed a lot of swelling, redness as well as pigment changes in the skin. This suggests that visible blue light can penetrate through the skin and cause reactive oxygen species (ROS). These reactive species can damage skin DNA and cause the breakdown of elastin fibers and collagen.

A study was published in February 2015 in Oxidative Medicine and Longevity regarding blue light exposure and skin. The study highlights a connection between blue light rays and the production of free radicals in the skin. Free radicals in the skin can speed up the process of skin aging or premature aging of the skin. Another way that blue light from computer screens may be speeding up the aging process is through pigmentation, as it can cause pigment changes. Furthermore, blue can also cause other changes to the skin, such as the shrinking of cells and even death, which leads to speedy aging.

Ways to Minimise Exposure to Blue Light

If you're one of the millions of people across the world who spend a lot of time on your phone, then it's crucial that you find ways to reduce your blue light exposure along the way. A research from the University of Toledo reveals that blue light from smartphone screen can cause blindness. The study found that blue light causes toxic reactions in retinal molecules in the eye that sense light and signals the brain. As a result, the poisonous chemical reactions kill the photoreceptors in the eyes and cannot be recovered once they die.

It's not just phones or computer screens that emit blue light. You also need to think about display screens on products like refrigerators, and lightbulbs too. To avoid serious problems, here are some ways you can work towards reducing your exposure to blue light on a daily basis:

According to Harvard Health, blue light exposure in the hours leading up to bedtime can directly interrupt your body's circadian rhythm. In turn, this affects your sleep quality, and might even contribute to other more serious afflictions. As a result, you should try to avoid screen time at least 2 hours leading up to bedtime.

One great option for minimizing blue light exposure is wearing protective glasses whenever you're looking at a computer screen, like during your work hours. Usually blue light glasses which are customizable, have virtually clear lenses, and have a special coating that helps prevent blue light and UV rays from passing through to your eyes.

Having screen brightness that is too high or too low can cause eyestrain and can make the eyes get tired faster. Look for a light-reduction application that automatically adjusts your computer's or smartphone’s color temperature display so that the display does not feel as bright and to make it less jarring to your vision at night. If possible, equip your smartphone with anti-glare glass or you can download to reduce the blue light.

The best thing you can do for your eyes (and your overall mental and physical health) at the end of the day is to cap your screen time to a daily limit and hold yourself to that limit.

Stop staring at the smartphone screen every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. Then look at something 20 feet away. It aims to temporarily relax the eye muscles and give your eyes a little rest.

When you concentrate on your smartphone, your blink rate also decreases. It can cause the tears on the surface to dry and leads to irritation, redness, pain and blurry vision. Try to also blink more often as this will make the eyes moist and reduce irritation. Blink at least 10 times every 20 minutes.

Holding your smartphone only about 20 cm from the face is very bad for the eyes. Give a distance of at least 40 – 46 cm from the eyes. Maybe it will feel strange for the first time, but you will get used to it.

In contrast, you should avoid lightbulbs whose brightness is described with phrases like "daylight" or "cool white."

There is no time better than the present, to start taking action.

Hydrogen’s potent antioxidant properties selectively scavenges free radicals thus reducing oxidative stress, and anti-inflammatory properties effectively reduces inflammation. Learn more how Hi-Bliss Hydrogen Therapy can help to take care of your eyes here: https://wordpress-851564-2937612.cloudwaysapps.com/treatment-services-eye-therapy/   

References:-

  1. Protective effect of saturated hydrogen saline against light-induced retinal damage in rats ~ Mei Feng, Xing-Hua Wang, Xiao-Bo Yang, et al. | Int J Ophthalmology | doi: 10.3980/j.issn.2222-3959.2012.02.07 | https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3359028  
  2. An Immunohistochemical Study of the Increase in Antioxidant Capacity of Corneal Epithelial Cells by Molecular Hydrogen, Leading to the Suppression of Alkali-Induced Oxidative Stress ~ C. Cejka, J. Kossl, B. Hermankova, V. Holan, and J. Cejkova, et al. Oxidative Medicine And Cellular Longevity | Volume 2022 | Article ID 9846572 | DOI:10.1155/2020/7435260  
  3. Rapid Diffusion of Hydrogen Protects the Retina: Administration to the Eye of Hydrogen-Containing Saline in Retinal Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury ~ Yaxing Zhanga Sihua Tana et.al. Cell Physiol Biochem 2018;47:1-10. DOI: 10.1159/00048973
  4. Sirtuin Type 1 Mediates the Retinal Protective Effect of Hydrogen-Rich Saline Against Light-Induced Damage in Rats ~ Lin-Song Qi; Lu Yao; Wei Liu; Wei-Xun Duan et. al. Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science December 2015, Vol.56, 8268-8279. https://doi.org/10.1167/iovs.15-17034  
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