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These are featured stories of how the Upper Delta and Mid-South is combating the Coronavirus as well as resources to help those impacted by the pandemic.

Too Much Screen Time Poses Eye-Health Risks for Young People

Little dependent gamer kid playing on laptop
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Eye-health experts recommend parents look out for "digital eye strain" in kids. Red flags include squinting while reading or watching television.

Spending more time on the computer or phone has become a big issue during the pandemic, both for adults and children - and eye-care specialists are warning of the detrimental effects of exposure to blue light from screens.

Blue light is part of the UV spectrum that can cause damage to the retina. At the height of the pandemic, adults were logging an average of 13 hours a day watching screens.

Optometrist Scott Edmonds, chief eye-care officer for United Healthcare, said there's concern that it may cause greater harm to millennials and younger generations, who have grown up with screens at their fingertips.

"So, in our world with all this exposure to blue light, and these folks are young," he said, "we're afraid that when they're older, they're going to have in particular, macular degeneration, but other health concerns we have from overexposure to blue light."

Macular degeneration is an eye disease that causes blurred vision or vision loss. To lower the risks associated with blue light, Edmonds said, people can do small things - such as setting screens at least 30 inches away from their eyes and using specialized screen protectors that block UV light.

For school-aged children, studies also have shown an increase in sleeping issues during COVID, some of which could be associated with more time spent on screens. Dr. Sarah Bone, secretary at the Arkansas chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics said parents worried about too much screen time can remind kids of other activities available to them.

"I think sometimes it just takes the family sitting down and going, 'Hey, you know, here's the other options. Also, you need to have done your homework, you need to have been outside and done some exercise before you hit those screens,'" she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also offers a Media Use Plan - a personalized tool for parents to keep track of screen time and set family goals for spending more non-screen time together.

Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.
A statewide non-profit news service for Arkansas. Based in Little Rock as a bureau of the Public News Service.