Taking young children on a dinner date, knowing they'll be quiet and well-behaved, is a parent's dream come true, and the introduction of tablets just over three years ago ushered in a new era, making such a thing possible. But some parents worry that using a tablet could be bad for a child's eyesight.
So many apps on both iOS and Android tablets are made for kids, and can be more educational than simply sitting in front of a television or playing with other toys.
While we know that blue-light from tablets and smartphones can have long-term effects on our vision, it’s still too early to tell the extent of the damage. However, there are a few widely accepted tips that will help keep your kids' eyes healthy until more information is available.
1. Limit to 30-45 minute sessions
Eye strain is caused by long periods of time in front of a screen. Since a tablet is held even closer to the face than a laptop or desktop screen, it can be more detrimental to eyes. But setting standards for how long kids spend, uninterrupted, with a tablet can ensure their eyes are not negatively affected. The 20-20-20 rule, or taking a 20-second break every 20 minutes to look at objects 20 feet away. Either limiting the total time your child spends with a tablet, or allowing them to play in short doses (such as a set number of episodes or games) can be an easy way to protect their eyes.
2. Use tablets with your kids
If your children use a tablet, you might already know that they not only find the interface intuitive but can easily entertain themselves. But most parenting experts don't recommend tablets as a replacement for interaction with real people -- especially for younger children, talking and listening are crucial for language development. Perhaps spend time reading to your child from ebooks on a tablet, or ask your child to show you how they play their favorite games. This acts as bonding time, and the interaction also ensures neither parent nor child is staring at the screen uninterrupted.
3. Get connected toys for use with the tablet
One of the wonderful things about tablets is how interactions can teach kids new things, from colors to the alphabet. A new line of toys promises to teach kids much more -- the concepts behind programming. Play-i makes colorful robots which are controlled via an iPad. With these toys, the engrossing nature of playing on a tablet is still intact but kids are interacting with real-world objects, not just a screen.
If you are concerned that tablet usage is affecting your child's eyes, be sure to get regular eye exams for them so intervention can be done early.