KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Since the start of the pandemic, many children are spending more time scrolling, playing and even learning on a screen or smart device.
Their eyes have been exposed to a lot of blue light in recent months. So much so that many metro parents are wondering if blue light filter glasses will help their child’s eye health. There are hundreds of options online to choose from, but one metro eye doctor said the glasses can help if you know what to shop for.
Next to gymnastics, 8-year-old Annabelle Miller loves her screen time.
“OK, so my favorite thing to do on my iPad, it’s probably watch a YouTube,” Annabelle said.
Her two younger brothers are also enjoying the extra time on the device. But their mother hasn’t been as thrilled.
“I felt really guilty about all that screen time,” said Michelle Miller, the mother of three.
Miller said during the pandemic, she was working from home and was forced to give her children iPads for entertainment. When online learning started, she was worried too much screen time would harm their eye health.
“My eyes kind of hurt more, and I was on the screen less,” Annabelle said.
“Two out of three of my kids were on school-issued iPads nearly all day,” Michelle said.
Michelle decided to be proactive. She said she was first introduced to the idea of blue light filter glasses from a relative who is a physician.
“I thought, ‘Well if I could get some blue light glasses at least I’ve mitigated one of the negative aspects of all that screen time,” Michelle said.
Optometrist Jason Pingel, of Mission Eyecare, said Michelle isn’t alone. Pingel said more and more parents are asking him about the blue light filter technology.
“We’ve just noticed digital usage has gone up every single year as more people are working on computers than ever before,” he said.
Pingel said some blue light, like the natural wave lengths emitted from the sun, is good, but too much from a screen or device can be harmful.
“So blue light is the light spectrum between ultraviolet and the warm spectrum of light,” he said. “It’s a shorter wavelength, so it’s a little bit more photo active inside of our eyes. It’s also known as high energy visible blue light.”
It can cause eye strain, headaches, fatigue, insomnia and, in some cases, it can lead to bigger eye problems later in life.
“So doing what we can now to try to reduce that blue light from getting into our eyes will help to prevent macular degeneration and maybe push off cataracts to our later years,” Pingel explained.
When shopping online, he said beware not all glasses carry the blue light filter as they may claim.
He said the glasses should have a yellowish tint to the lens. Some may even have a purple hue, which could be a strong indication the glasses offer filter protection.
Pingel recommended speaking with your eye doctor to find the best solution for your child’s eye health.
Michelle said she purchased a pair for her kids and herself, all for about $15 a pair.
“In the middle of this pandemic when it feels like everything else is out of control this was something, I felt was easy for me to control for myself and my children,” she said.
If you can’t find a pair of glasses, there are other ways to reduce your child’s blue light.
“Practice something called a 20-20-20 rule, for every 20 minutes you work, take 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away to give yourself regular breaks,” Pingel said.
Pediatrician Dr. Marion Pierson, of Village Pediatrics, said parents shouldn’t just think about eye health, but also posture while using computer screens and devices.
“Make sure screen is in a neutral position, at eye level, not too low or too high to cause neck and eye strain,” Pierson said. “Then you want at least a foot or two distance from your child’s face and the screen.”
Pierson believes parents don’t need to rush out and purchase the glasses.
“The Academy of Pediatrics has not released a statement that says we need blue light blocking glasses,” Pierson said. “All of that data will be collected so we can figure out if it will be a short-term impact on eye health, or is there some type of long-term considerations that we need to start to figure out. Right now we don’t have any major long term impacts.”
But for now, Annabelle has noticed a big difference since wearing her blue light filter glasses.
“My eyes don’t hurt anymore so that’s the good part!”