Should Kids Be Forced to Reduce Their Screen Time?

Should Kids Be Forced to Reduce Their Screen Time?

Posted by Paul Gibson on

Should parents be worried enough about their kid's eye health enough to reduce the amount of time they spend looking at a computer or mobile phone screen, and why do we demonize this in the first place?

Two arguments rage on:

The largest one infers that children will develop myopia and lose their eyesight by overusing screens because of the constant unnatural near vision stimulus over extended periods of time. Well, I was told as a kid that self-pleasure would also make you lose your eyesight and that has about the same basis of scientific backup!

The second is the lack of social interaction among children and underdevelopment of social skills.

The Facts

We have been reading books at scale for over 600 years, and for most of that time, it was done under very poor candlelit conditions with no recorded adverse effects upon the health of our eyes.

Since the industrial revolution, many millions of people have been packed into classrooms to then work in factories performing close working repetitive tasks for up to 18 hours a day.

We do tend to put the past on a pedestal and demonise the present and future technologies with no educated or scientific basis to back it up.

In this case, mobile phones are now under the scrutiny of the established media pumping out propaganda to parents at scale.

But, ironically those very same parents in the eighties an nineties spent many hours on display screens.  For work and pleasure. Many evenings spent in their bedrooms alone watching the TV, or waiting for half an hour for a computer game to load! and don't get me started about the quality of the screens they were subjected to.


History Repeats Itself

The crazy thing is newspapers came under the very same scrutiny shortly after the printing press was invented in the 1400's, with people crying that news should be delivered personally to the person via a conversation. Does this sound familiar?

The facts are according to Ryan et al. Retina. 2013 that less than 3% of the world’s population will ever develop pathological myopia and that 30% of that number of people are born with it!

Surely if close work and screen time was such a significant problem then the prevalence would already be a lot higher than that today.

Major Causes of Sight Loss Around The World

To put it in a context you are more likely to lose your sight overeating and going on to develop type 2 diabetes.  Then by overusing your eye's natural ability to focus on a screen or book! So parents, replace their burgers with a little more screen time and you might be on to a winner.

If you are dubious then just google the most significant causes of blindness. You will be hard pushed to find pathological myopia in any published article on the most common causes of sight loss around the globe.

The leading causes of sight loss are generally brought on through old age and include things like Age-Related Macular Degeneration, Cataract, Glaucoma, Diabetes as well as accidents and injury.

Blue Light Problems

One of the biggest documented problems caused by devices is lack of sleep, adequate rest for the brain, due to the projection of blue light into the eye during the hours before bed. During the largest part of our evolution, we have been used to the sun dropping in the and light levels dropping gradually and the dark adaption in our eye takes over 15 minutes.

Its known that this upsets our normal circadian rhythms in the body. But modern devices have blue light filters included and have already solved this issue.

The Future is Bright

The current trend in high 4K resolution LED retinal displays that show near perfect contrast that adjusts automatically to background illumination, now present some of the clearest most comfortable images without flicker we have ever experienced outside the natural world.

While we debate the latest bullshit scaremongering headlines and worry about problems that really don’t exist. The rapid development of infinity displays, Virtual Reality Display and future brain fed imaging systems that will ultimately not require the need for the eye to focus and accommodate, would resolve the fake screen stimulus for pathological myopia argument anyway as technology advances!

So, should we limit device use?

What I do know is that we are not going backwards. Using the eyes natural focusing power alongside the rapid expansion of technology should not cause any sufficient damages or changes to the visual system in that short period of time.  I would, therefore, argue yes and no.

Why Yes?

The main reason I would suggest is a common sense approach.

The Human body is designed to move and keep active to stay mobile and healthy.  So a balance needs to be struck to prevent us being sedentary for extended periods of time.  Standing desks and pool studies are ongoing methods to prevent this in the working environment.

We are social creatures and there are many studies to show that isolation can be one of the leading causes of mental illness.  So, the more social time we spend with other people the better our mental health, well being and performance.  So a balance definitely needs to be struck.  But one could argue several hours of school or college takes care of that anyway.

There are monsters online that will stalk and kidnap your kids and infect them with bad language online! 

This undoubtedly is not the problem it is made out to be and the naivety to think that kids don't swear amongst themselves when interacting together is nonsensical.  Not to mention the opportunists hunting for kids playing out without their parents around to protect them, well come on!

Why No?

Limiting their screen time could be more detrimental to their future career prospects as more jobs require those skills than ever before.

Media headlines provoke fear in parents because of their ignorance and lack of knowledge and one could argue their laziness to keep pace with the technology their kids are using. Its far easier to demonise the new WITCH (screen time) then to put the time necessary to stay ahead of their children.

I would suggest that parents spend more time with their kids using the technology to stay one step ahead. Learn how to manipulate the platforms and games. So that your kids learn to use the technology and internet safely.

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