“Imagine it’s 2035 and you get a call from your son who proceeds to inform you that, at the young age of 32, he’s going blind as a result of macular degeneration.”
As dramatic and heavy-hitting as this opening quote from a recent article on GoodMenProject.com is, it’s still very possible. Macular degeneration is traditionally a disease that affects the middle-aged and elderly. It is not a disease that hits young, vibrant people in the midst of their careers, just starting a family, and settling into their first home. Essentially, as kids grow, their eyes are developing until they reach their late-teens so that means they’re more susceptible to damage. During their youngest years, blue light can travel right passed the cornea and directly hit the retina much more easily than when kids’ eyes have fully developed. As more and more studies come out showing just how digitally wired we all are and at earlier ages than ever, the increased exposure to blue light is leading to multiple, long-term issues including macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness for adults over 50.
If you’re a parent, though, think about it. How often do your kids stare at a phone, tablet, or computer? When was the last time you saw them not glued to a screen? More than ever, kids are turning to blue light-emitting devices for entertainment, information, or just because they need to be distracted or occupied. Fussy kids at the dining room table when family’s in town is frustrating, but some Super Mario Run or Pokémon Go oughta fix things! Right?
As noted in the article, a Nielsen study done way back in 2012 found that over 70% of kids under the age of 12 are regularly using tablets for gaming and learning. With how advanced and inexpensive technology has become in the past 5 years, we’re sure that number is closer to 80% by now. What’s more, the Journal of Pediatrics found:
- 20% of one-year-olds own a tablet
- 28% of two-year-olds can navigate a digital device without help
- 28% of parents say they use a digital device to put their kids to sleep
As we have pointed out in previous blogs, blue light is terrible for you. It causes you to lose sleep, may cause your metabolism to decrease, and damages retinal tissue in your eye. Why on earth would you let kids spend more time on something that can wreck their visual future let alone have a device at the ready as a bedtime tradition? If getting your kids’ eyes off screens and staring at something outdoors is too difficult, then it’s recommended you protect them as much as you can. Most devices now come with a blue light-manipulating app or setting, and while those are a good start, they don’t go far enough. Taking breaks, the 20-20-20 rule, and blinking more are also good habits to form, but in the end, something shielding their eyes is the biggest and ideal step to take.