The effects of digital screen usage on children's vision health

Published on
February 8, 2023

Pediatric eye health is a critical aspect of a child’s life and development. Good vision is not just about clarity but a functional system that is flexible and efficient, influencing a child's learning, development, behavior, and stamina. However, the excessive use of digital media devices such as television, cellular phones, tablets, and computers by children today has a profound effect on their vision and overall health.

The Digital Media Onslaught

Today’s families have to manage the increased use of digital media in children’s lives. While technology provides many benefits such as easy and immediate access to information and communication tools, it also comes with risks. The excessive use of digital media has led to children experiencing visual fatigue and decreased visual efficiency.

According to a report by Common Sense Media, teenagers (age 13-18) spend an average of 9 hours daily on entertainment media, while tweens (age 8-12) spend 6 hours daily. These statistics have increased 17% since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The prolonged use of digital devices may lead to children becoming addicted to device use, social media, and gaming, leading to real, serious consequences in the pediatric population. In 2018, the World Health Organization recognized gaming disorder as a disease, and MRI studies have shown that gaming and smartphone addictions change the physical structure of the brain, much like drug and gambling addictions.

Impact of Screen Time On Children’s Visual Efficiency

As optometrists, we understand that the accommodative (focusing) system's strength is age-dependent. Excessive use of the accommodative system without proper visual hygiene can weaken it, leading to diagnoses of accommodative insufficiency. This includes reduced visual acuity, low amounts of against-the-rule astigmatism, asthenopia, headaches, and fatigue.

The excessive use of digital media also puts stress on the binocular vision system, which involves two eyes working together to form a single image. Screen-based activity stimulates visual processing more heavily than even the sensory processing systems, interrupting the development of binocular vision, leading to binocular vision dysfunction in the form of convergence excess or insufficiency.

Clinical studies reveal that prolonged use of handheld digital devices leads to a closer viewing distance, increasing the likelihood of accommodative and binocular vision issues and the visual symptoms that accompany them. There are treatment options available, such as reading glasses, bifocals, and vision therapy, aimed at improving visual function.

The progression of myopia is influenced by genetic and environmental factors, including digital media use. Optometrists must examine the screen time habits of patients to minimize the progression of myopia. Scientific research has shown that increased outdoor exposure reduces the development of myopia.

Take our online visual skills assessment to help identify if you or your child has a potential visual deficit that may be interfering with success in the classroom, work, or sports /vision-therapy-specialty/vision-and-learning-quiz/ 

The Negative Effects of Digital Media on Children's Development and Mental Health

In the current digital age, the use of digital media has become an inevitable part of children's daily lives. While digital media has many benefits, excessive and prolonged exposure to digital media has been linked to numerous negative effects on children's development and mental health.

Studies show that elevated digital media use can result in decreased cognitive and language skills in children, as well as a decrease in the ability to concentrate and pay attention. The blue light emitted by digital screens can also disrupt children's sleep patterns, leading to sleep deprivation, which can have a significant impact on overall health and well-being.

Moreover, digital media use has a strong correlation with children's mental health. Studies have found that excessive digital media use can lead to increased anxiety and depression, decreased self-esteem, and a negative impact on social skills. Children who spend a significant amount of time on digital devices are more likely to be bullied and less likely to engage in physical activity, which can have negative effects on physical health.

It's important for parents and caregivers to monitor and limit their children's digital media use, setting clear guidelines and creating a healthy balance between digital and non-digital activities. Encouraging outdoor activities, exercise, and face-to-face communication can also mitigate the negative effects of digital media on children's development and mental health.

The Negative Effects of Screen Time on Children's Sleep Habits

According to research, the blue light emitted from digital devices such as smartphones, laptops, and televisions disrupts the natural production of melatonin, a hormone responsible for regulating the sleep-wake cycle. This interference results in difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, and waking up feeling rested and refreshed.

In addition to these direct effects on sleep, technology usage also disrupts bedtime routines and reduces the amount of time spent engaging in other sleep-promoting activities, such as reading or practicing relaxation techniques.

As a result, the increasing use of technology by children and adolescents has become a growing concern among health professionals and parents alike. To minimize the impact of technology on sleep, it is recommended to establish a consistent bedtime routine, avoid using digital devices for at least an hour before bed, and engage in activities that promote relaxation and relaxation before sleep.

Schedule a pediatric eye exam for eye strain at American Family Vision Clinic

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), daily screen time for children is as follows: ages 8 to 10 spend an average of 6 hours, ages 11 to 14 spend an average of 9 hours, and ages 15 to 18 spend an average of 7.5 hours.
If you're concerned about the impact of digital media on your child's eye health, it's important to take action. Regular pediatric eye exams can help ensure that any potential issues are caught early and treated effectively. At American Family Vision Clinic, our caring optometrists have extensive experience in pediatric eye care and are equipped to help diagnose and treat any eye strain symptoms your child may be experiencing. So, why wait? Schedule a pediatric eye exam for your child today by calling (360) 491-2121 and give them the best chance at healthy vision for years to come!
Parents looking for a pediatric eye exam visit our clinic from all over Washington, and we are proud to be a leading provider of pediatric eye services for patients from Olympia, Lakewood, Tacoma, and Lacey.


Such a nice optician. My grandson is only 4 and needs glasses. We were so sad, but he explained the issues, and we will follow up as he suggested.

Anna P.

I had such a good experience with the clinic. Very friendly staff and doctor, did not have to wait for long to be called, and was treated respectfully. Thanks, American Family.

June S.

Dr. Zurcher has gone above and beyond what any other eye doctor has ever done to figure out what is going on with my eyes. Very happy with American Family Vision.

Christine R.

Family Vision Clinic changed our lives! My daughter was frequently car sick, and she was getting headaches every day, often painful enough that they brought her to tears. We saw a string of doctors and therapists, but we made no progress. Finally, we found Dr. Levi Zurcher and his eye therapist Rain. After ten weeks of eye therapy my daughter no longer gets headaches, and she no longer gets car sick. Daily tears are a thing of the past. I really can’t say enough about this clinic. It was fascinating to watch Dr. Zurcher work. For the first time, someone who knew what they were doing was intently studying my daughter, really trying to figure out all of her eye issues, and his therapist Rain is one of the most patient and lovely people that I’ve ever had the good fortune to meet. We’re finished with eye therapy—yay!—and I have switched to American Family Vision Clinic for all of my family’s other eye health needs.

Lars Wulff

Very professional, yet kind and helpful. They do what they can to make the appointment comfortable. I was running a bit late, I made sure ti call. They were able to switch me with a patient who was already there, they treated me with respect, and helped my son have confidence by getting him the eye care he needed that day. Thank you so much! Would recommend to anyone. It's a blessing that they care enough to work with people who have all different types of insurance from work to state coverage.

Justin E.

The staff is friendly. The Doc is very knowledgeable. The office is family friendly and everyone is so patient with the little ones.

Amy Fagerness
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