With today's rapid advances in technology, we are in the age of digital learning and entertainment. With that, screen time is ever-increasing, and so is our awareness of its effects physically and mentally on our children. Like it or not, screen time is becoming a necessary part of our society, so as parents, it's becoming more important to understand how to develop a healthy routine of screen time for kids.
Healthy screen time
Screen time is simply time spent doing a (mostly sedentary) activity behind a screen including watching TV, surfing the web, and playing video games. While the amount of screen time a child has in one day may concern parents, not all screen time is bad. Healthy ways to use screen time for kids include research, schoolwork, connecting with friends and family from around the world, and viewing other educational content.
Like anything, screen time is good in moderation. The World Health Organization has recommended the following acceptable screen time for kids:
- Infants under 18 months: no screen time other than video messaging family members.
- Toddlers 18-24 months: very little (less than one hour) of high-quality, educational content.
- Preschoolers (ages 3-5): 1 hour per day.
- School-age children (ages 6-10): 1.5 hours per day.
- Middle school ages and up: 2 hours
Allowing children more screen time than what is recommended could lead to adverse health effects including obesity, insomnia, anxiety, and depression on top of the lack of physical activity. Why do screens affect us in this way? It comes down to the exposure of our eyes to "blue light" present in smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs and even in our home lighting.
Blue light basics
To understand the effects of blue light, screen time, and our children, it's important to understand what blue light is in the first place. Every day light consists of different colors and energies. As seen in the order of colors on a rainbow, the highest energy light include the short wavelength colors like blue and violet. Lower energy light consists of long wavelength colors such as red and orange.
About one-third of the light we see every day is high-energy light with the main source of blue light being the sun. Blue light happens to be the primary source of energy in man-made artificial lights, including fluorescent light bulbs, LED lighting, and TV/computer screens.
Blue light tends to get a bad wrap because of its correlation with computer screens, but not all blue light exposure is bad. Blue light exposure helps produce vitamin D. It's also the basis of the circadian rhythm, which is our body's natural ability to be alert during the day but sleepy at night. Blue light exposure also helps improve memory function and elevates mood.
The problem is that with the rise of digital devices and energy efficient lighting, we are exposed to much more blue light throughout the day compared to our ancestors. The technology behind most LED lights involve the use of high intensity blue light filtered to create what we see as "white" light. Since blue light naturally alerts your body to stay awake, over exposure to blue light at the wrong time (like right before bed) can easily lead to irregular sleep patterns.
How to prevent overexposure to blue light
Just like you would wear sunglasses to protect your eyes outside, you can protect your family's eyes from the effects of blue light with kids blue light glasses. These glasses can partially or completely block out the energy from blue light. You can also prevent overexposure to blue light by dimming the lights and limiting screen time in the evening or before bed. If this isn't possible, blue light glasses will work just the same.
Right light at the right time
With some careful planning, you can make sure you're exposing your family to blue light at the right time throughout the day. In general, keep windows and blinds open during the day and dim the lights for nap and bedtime. Keeping your house lit during the day and dark at night will help signal your circadian rhythm to let your body know when it's time for bed and result in a better sleep routine as well as quality of sleep. A long wavelength amber or red kids night light will help your children adjust for bedtime by allowing their bodies to naturally produce the appropriate amounts of melatonin. A red night light is also great if you need to tend to them at night without disrupting sleep.
Sleep well with emagine A
To help your kids wake up refreshed and not overtired, use an alarm clock that works with your child's circadian rhythm and will wake them up naturally when they are ready. Visit our website to learn more about emagine A and for more tips on sleep and family health.