5 On Your Side

Eyes, ears suffer when kids use tech too much

Posted December 20, 2018 10:12 a.m. EST

Eye doctors are starting to see the effects of too much screen time. Even children are showing a noticeable increase in conditions like dry eye and nearsightedness.

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

New research suggests the blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs might, over time, damage the retina. That's the thin layer at the back of the eye that contains light-sensitive cells.

It's estimated that on average children 8 and under spend about two hours a day on devices.

Experts say children's eyes need regular breaks. They call it the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look out a window or at an object that is at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

When it comes to children's hearing, audiologists are concerned that the continual use of headphones at an unsafe volume may lead to an increase in hearing problems, even before they're teenagers!

The rule of thumb there is if anyone can hear the music coming from your headphones, they are too loud.

"If you're trying to talk and they're listening to their headphones and they can't hear you, it's too loud," Calderone said.

For headphone use, experts suggest the 80-90 rule. Don't listen to music at 80 percent of the volume of your device for more than 90 minutes per day.

As for the blue light, some devices offer a nighttime setting which is easier on the eyes.