~ Disclosure: VSP is a client of Mom Central Consulting.
As summer winds down and back-to-school season approaches, we Moms know our busiest time of the year will soon arrive. Between shopping for school supplies, ferrying kids to annual check-ups, and nailing down to-and from-school transportation logistics, the next month or so will prove a whirlwind.
In the midst of all this, we also need to move kids away from their summer lifestyle into a more school-oriented schedule. For so many kids, summer offers the perfect time to double-down on electronics – ranging from gaming consoles to Smartphone app games to summer TV favorites – and it can be a challenge for Moms to begin to chisel away at our kids’ warm-weather electronic marathons.
In fact, a Mom Central survey showed that our digital natives spend nearly 12 hours during the week and 8 hours on the weekends engaged in technology. Moreover, the tethering of technology begins sooner than ever as kids as young as 5 carry electronic devices, and kids get their first cell phones between the age of 10 and 12.
Schools, too, have picked up on our kids’ tech immersion with some schools replacing textbooks with tablets, teachers assigning Internet research in elementary grades, and laptops now a standard supply for most rising college freshmen.
While 1 in 5 Moms already express concern about tech-overload, I recently learned it presents a more troubling challenge for kids – it can harm their eyes. While my generation grew up with our Moms shouting from the kitchen for us to back up from the TV because “you’re going to ruin your eyes” – it turns out that warning contained a grain of truth.
Electronic device screens – as well as fluorescent lights and the new CFL light bulbs – all emit blue light, which can actually reach to the back of the eye and result in damage that can lead to conditions such as macular degeneration. Nearly 2 million people in the U.S. have this condition, and it represents the top cause of vision loss for adults.
Because kids’ eyes don’t fully develop until they turn 18, they don’t yet have the protection against blue light that comes naturally as they grow. As a result, they may be at increased risk for damage that can lead to macular degeneration. So, how do we help protect our kids – without entirely pulling the plug on their electronic devices – as we ramp up for the back-to-school season?
· Schedule a Comprehensive Eye Exam: Sometimes our kids’ annual check-up falls later in the year. Consider scheduling a comprehensive eye appointment before school starts – particularly if your child uses technology extensively or if you anticipate increased usage – for example, if your child’s school plans a move to electronic textbooks. Here, doctors can take a look at the inside health of kids’ eyes and correct any issues they identify.
· Look at Lens Options: Particularly with kids, we spend so much time focused on finding the perfect frames that we neglect to ask about the all-important lenses. UNITY lenses with BluTech consist of a special material that filters the harmful blue light emitted from digital devices. Wearing UNITY lenses with BluTech – in prescription or non-prescription form – will help protect your kid’s eyes over time as they grow and help mitigate exposure risk.
· Promote Healthy Habits: As Moms we know that back-to-school season provides a real need to get kids focused on good habits such as getting plenty of sleep, making time for exercise, and eating a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables. It also turns out that these behaviors also boost kids’ ability to develop the body’s natural protection against blue light. And to help ensure a good night’s sleep, make sure kids set aside electronic gear at bedtime since blue light can impact natural sleep cycles.
· Put Limits in Place for Digital Natives: As our kids grow up experiencing increased technology use, they need parents to establish some digital boundaries. Let kids know when electronic devices can and cannot be used and help reinforce offline activities – such as continuing to read “traditional” books and playing outside with friends. Also, we Moms can act as good role models by easing off our 24/7 tech habits – for example, putting down our own laptops and tablets after dinner.
To learn more about protecting kids’ eyes, click here – and visit our Mom Central Facebook page to enter a random drawing for a chance to win one of three pairs of UNITY lenses with BluTech (complete with a designer frame) in either prescription or non-prescription format.