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Experts Warn FL Parents about Blue-Light Exposure, Excess Screen Time

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Wednesday, January 19, 2022   

The pandemic shows no signs of ending soon, and with working from home and distance learning still a reality for many Florida households, health experts are concerned about the mental, social and physical health of children using digital devices. That includes the possible damaging effects of blue-light exposure.

Scott Edmonds, chief eye-care officer at United Healthcare, said blue light is a low-wavelength, high-energy light that can boost a person's alertness. However, doctors and researchers are concerned about the effects it can have over time.

"Research shows it's toxic to the retina," he said. "It causes the retina to change its metabolism and, over the long term, could lead to retinal damage."

Experts have said the best ways to reduce blue-light impact is to keep screens at least 30 inches away from your eyes and to use a blue-light filter or glasses. Another recommendation is the "20-20-20" rule - after 20 minutes of computer work, take 20 seconds to look at something that's 20 feet away.

Studies regarding the dangers of too much screen time find other side effects, including poor mental health and not enough physical activity. Ilana Lowery, director of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews online materials aimed at kids, stresses the need for children to develop one-on-one social skills.

"When you can learn to be a critical thinker from a very young age, that sticks with you," she said. "You can't always do that when you're just watching TikTok challenges and stuff like that. When you have face time with people, you learn how to be social, you learn how to interact."

Lowery said it's important that parents who want their kids to cut down on screen time set a good example.

"It's critical, really, for families to think about how they use media as a family," she said, "and I think it's really important for parents or caregivers to model the behavior that they want their kids to have."

Disclosure: United Healthcare contributes to our fund for reporting on Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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