Doctors warn too much screen time can cause eye strain, make you lose sleep

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PEORIA, Ill. — Doctors are cautioning parents on how much screen time children get each day.

We live in a digital age where all of our favorite shows, games, and news articles can be right at our fingertips.

But experts say having devices this close to our faces can cause major eye strain.

“It’s so much easier on the eyes if it’s at a farther distance. If you’re holding that tablet right here, you’re straining those eye muscles more. I always recommend if you can cast your device onto the screen over there or just watch your Netflix over there on the screen rather than right there in front of your face. That’s gonna help out,” said Dr. Tim Cundiff who is an Optometrist at Vision Care Center.

With children whose eyes and brains are still developing, it’s important to limit the amount of screen time they absorb each day.

“We say no devices before age 2. No devices at all. No screen time, no phones, nothing. Zero before two,” Dr. Cundiff says.

Dr. Cundiff says for anyone who uses phones or tablets, to make sure it’s a safe distance away from your eyes.

“The closer it is the more strain. When you see your kid playing on their tablet right up close in front of their face, it needs to be out here at a normal working distance. Arms length,” Dr. Cundiff said.

Director of Sleep Medicine for OSF Healthcare, Dr. Kaninika Verma, says the mobile device screens can impact much more than vision.

“The blue light that is emitted from all these screens actually suppresses our natural sleep hormone, so it can make it more difficult for people to fall asleep, and that includes children,” Dr. Kaninika said.

Dr. Sarah Zallek, Medical Director for OSF Healthcare Illinois Neurological Institute Sleep Center recommends not being on your device within two to three hours of bedtime if you’re having trouble sleeping.

“And so if you’re on a device and you’re having trouble sleeping and you can’t back off from using the device then it might be worth considering changing the way you interact with the device,” Dr. Zallek said.

Dr. Cundiff has a tangible tip he tells his patients when it comes to screen time.

“We call it the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes you’re on a screen, you have to pause for twenty seconds, and look at something 20 feet away from you,” Dr. Cundiff says.

Dr. Cundiff recommends getting kids to enjoy physical activity much more than just digital activity.

He says playing outside is so much more beneficial than just sitting inside on your phone.

Dr. Cundiff says there is a correlation between eye strain and eyesight. He says he sees many kids needing to wear glasses, and eye strain due to screen time could be a cause.

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