Screen time: how much is too much for your kids’ eye health?

We give guidelines on how much screen time is too much, and share practical ideas for maintaining your child's optical health.

Putting boundaries around how much time your children spend in front of a screen is a good way to help protect their peepers. But how much screen time is too much?
 
For some children, spending too much time in front of the TV or computer screen can affect their sleep and the amount of physical activity they do, which can in turn lead to health problems like being overweight or obese.  

Experts recommend that children aged:
  • Under two years steer clear of screens altogether.
  • Between two and five spend no more than one hour a day in front of a screen.
  • Between five and 18 should avoid using screens for more than two hours. 

Damage control

A good way to reduce possible damage to children’s eyes during screen time is to encourage them to take a rest in between sessions, whether they're doing homework on a computer, watching television or using their smartphone on the train. 
 
Ideally, they should stop every 10 to 15 minutes and refocus their eyes at a point in the distance.
 
Bupa Optical’s Optometric Services Manager Karen Makin says, “While looking at a screen, or anything at a near distance, the focusing muscles in the eyes are under strain. By taking breaks, and going outside or looking out a window, these muscles become more relaxed, and a child is less likely to experience symptoms of eye strain.”
Baby on iPad

Getting into good habits

The earlier you encourage good habits, the more likely it is children will mature into teenagers and adults who make better choices about their free time. Here are a few ways to encourage ‘screen rules’ at home:
 
  • Establish screen time guidelines according to the ages of your children.
  • Encourage your child to spend time outside, play a game with them or engage in a variety of other activities during free time that will entertain and stimulate them and allow them to be in natural daylight.
  • Place televisions, tablets and computers in family spaces and out of children’s bedrooms; this includes their smartphone.
  • Be strict about what your younger children watch or play on the computer. Take an interest in what your older children are doing or watching online.
  • Consider switching TV off before school and at dinnertime to encourage conversation. 
  • Lead by example by regulating your own screen time.

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