Local ophthalmologist explains potential effects of excessive screen time on kids

Posted at 4:17 PM, Jan 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-18 16:18:03-05

NORFOLK, Va. – A local ophthalmologist is talking about potential effects of excessive time that children are spending on electronic devices.

Dr. Shannon McCole, an ophthalmologist with Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, says she’s not just concerned about eye health. She warns of sleep problems related to exposure to blue light.

“Blue light suppresses melatonin, which is something we need to get good sleep,” McCole said. “So, when kids are spending an excessive amount of time on screens, it can be very activating. This can also have an adverse effect for kids who are prone to ADHD, and it can really affect their sleep cycle.”

McCole stresses taking away screens several hours before bedtime, but recognizes that can be difficult, especially with older kids who have hours of homework atop of their virtual school day.

She also pointed out how doctors and therapists are seeing a greater number of children and adults for depression and anxiety. She said reaching out to friends and family online can outweigh the vision risks.

“Not all screen time is detrimental. The gaming is a little different than if they’re reaching out on FaceTime or Zoom or whatnot to stay in contact with friends. Although the kids can’t necessarily get together, using screens effectively to reach out to friends to stay connected can be very important,” McCole said.

When asked about glasses or screen protectors that are said to block blue light, McCole said it may help, but there isn’t a lot of research to back it.

“There certainly is more to the equation than only blue light. It’s also all spectrum of light, being up, looking at a screen,” McCole said. “All of that does affect one’s ability to kind of wind down, and it’s not just as simple as the blue light.”

Ergonomics is another concern. McCole also suggest making sure you and your children are working at a desk where the computer is at a level that won’t cause neck strain.

If you have any concerns about these health issues, make an appointment with your doctor.