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Experts: New Yorkers Should Monitor Excess Screen Time, Blue-Light Exposure

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Thursday, January 20, 2022   

Health experts are warning the public about the mental, social and physical health risks of using digital devices too much, including the possible damaging effects of blue-light exposure for kids and adults in New York who are working and learning remotely.

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

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

Experts advised the best ways to reduce blue-light impact are 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 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, regional director for Common Sense Media, a nonprofit reviewing online materials designed for kids, stressed 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," Lowery explained. "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 added it is important for parents who want their kids to cut down on-screen time to set a good example.

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


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