Are tech gadgets harming children's eyes, ears?

Experts suggest 20-20-20 rule to protect eyes

SAN ANTONIO – Valia Portela DeViola is concerned that her daughter’s screen time and headphone use could be causing damage to her eyes and ears.  

“I find myself telling her, ‘Back off. Back off from the phone. Give yourself some space,” DeViola said. “My concern is the effect on her vision over time.”

Children ages 8 and younger spend an average of two hours and 15 minutes per day on devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and televisions.

Eye doctors are seeing a marked increase in conditions such as dry eye and nearsightedness in children, according to Consumer Reports.

“Looking at screens up close causes the eye to shift focus and, over time, can cause the eyeball to lengthen, which can lead to nearsightedness,” said Julia Calderone health editor for Consumer Reports.

New research suggests that blue light emitted by screens from cellphones and tablets may damage the retina, the thin layer at the back of the eye that contains light-sensitive cells, over time.

Experts say children’s eyes need regular breaks from tech activities in what is called the 20-20-20 rule. That means every 20 minutes, the child should look out a window or at objects at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Audiologists are concerned that the continual use of headphones at an unsafe volume level may lead to an increase in hearing problems in kids and teens.

“Experts recommend that if you can hear the music coming from your kids’ headphones when they’re listening, it’s too loud," Calderone said. “Alternatively, if you’re trying to talk and they’re listening to their headphones and they can’t hear you, it’s too loud.”

Experts suggest the 80-90 rule – not listening to music at 80 percent volume for more than 90 minutes a day.

About the Author: