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Screen Time for Children

By Dr. Lillian Rieck

“How long can my child play iPad?” is probably the most common question optometrists are asked during a child’s eye exam. In November 2017, the Canadian Association of Optometrists (CAO) and the Canadian Ophthalmological Society released recommendations for screen time in children. Screens include television, computer, tablet, smartphone, and video games.

Recommended screen time

  • 0-2 years old – No screen time recommended. The exception is video chatting with a parent’s assistance as this promotes social interaction.
  • o 2-5 years old – maximum of one hour combined per day.
  • o 5-19 years – maximum of 2 hours per day of recreational screen time. *The qualifier recreational is added to the school-aged group because it is increasingly common to use computers at school and for homework.

It is important to take a break after 60 minutes of screen time. Breaks should include whole body physical activity and outdoor activity over screen time should always be encouraged. Time spent outdoors, and in natural sunlight can reduce myopia or nearsightedness in children.

Screen time should be minimized at least one hour before bed and screens should not be allowed in the bedroom as the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with sleep. These recommendations apply to children and adults equally.

A 2014 survey by the American Optometric Association showed that 88% of children (10-17) surveyed said their eyes burned, itched, felt tired or blurry after using a device. These symptoms associated with screen use are called Computer Vision Syndrome or Digital Eyestrain. Digital eyestrain often occurs after 2 or more hours of screen time. Symptoms can include headaches, eyestrain, back, neck, and shoulder pain, eye irritation, blurred vision, double vision, excessive tearing or dry eyes and excessive blinking or squinting. If you notice these symptoms or if your child complains of any of these symptoms, book an eye exam to see a Doctor of Optometry at Sunridge Optometry – inside LensCrafters.

The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.


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