Kids around the world—including those cute little rascals living in your house—are spending more time on screens than ever before! One survey even suggests that the amount of time children spent staring at screens increased by as much as 500% during the COVID-19 lockdown. Whether you use the screens as distractions or for academic purposes, the blue light they emit could be detrimental to their health.
The Sleep Foundation writes that blue light emitted by TVs, smartphones, tablets, video games, and computers may lead to “sleep-deprived or poorly rested kids who have essentially given themselves a mini case of jet lag.” This assertion is reiterated by articles appearing in the Harvard Health Blog and Forbes—with the latter highlighting the risks of blue light on the eye health of children and teens.
In other words, blue light is harmful to the health of your kids; it’s emitted by most of the devices they’re increasingly using, and you need to do something about it! With this in mind, this article offers some relatively effective tips and tricks to limit blue light exposure in your little ones. This will help improve their overall health and prevent the sulky morning grumpiness we all hate.
- Take a trip back to the olden times: The most thorough, radical, and likely-to-be-opposed way to prevent exposure to blue light is pulling the plug. Turn off devices after sundown and dim night lights in your home. Think of it as taking a trip back to a time before the proliferation of electricity and electronic devices.
- Set Timers for their screen time: Going all pre-industrial revolution on your kid’s devices and exposure to blue light may not be the most viable solution. In such a case, the next best option—and arguably the most effective as recommended by the Sleep Foundation—is to limit the length of time they spend using blue-light-emitting devices. More specifically, ensure there are no smartphones or TV-watching at least 3 hours before bedtime.
- Dimmer is better: Whether it’s the lighting in your house or the level of brightness in their screens, dim every source or artificial light where applicable. Of course, I understand that there are some areas of the house that dimming light is not an option – e.g., the kitchen. Dimming lights is also a good option when your young one has an assignment to finalize and they cannot avoid the screen altogether.
- Change the colour of lighting in your kid’s rooms: Research from the Harvard Medical School shows that different colours in the visible spectrum have varying effects. Blue tones have shorter wavelengths and they reduce the production of melatonin—while red/amber tones have longer wavelengths and they may help your kids sleep. Not to throw shade, but stay away from those blue night lights in the market.
- Encourage exposure to natural daylight: Yes, blue light is harmful—but it’s also been shown to improve performance, alertness, mood, and evening fatigue. The trick lies in knowing when it’s the right time to bathe in natural blue light and when it’s time to wind down. For this reason, encourage your kid to play outside during the day to improve their sleepiness at night, mood, and alertness.
- Consider applications and accessories to filter blue light exposure: Apple, Microsoft, Google and other major manufacturers of mobile devices all have “night light” features that dim your screens and make the colours warmers at night. Set these filters on a schedule as soon as the sun goes down. Also, look into TV screen-dimming devices—especially if your family has a habit of watching the TV over dinner. An alternative, but debated solution is the use of blue light glasses as a way to minimize the exposure to blue light on the go.
- Explain the harmful effects of blue light gently: You can’t be there policing your kid’s device usage and monitoring their exposure to blue light all the time. Sit the little guys down and have an honest, informative talk with them about the dangers of blue light to their health. Just make sure to put the message across gently and engagingly for a lasting impact.
The takeaway is that are our kids are increasingly susceptible to the harmful effects of blue light. It’s your responsibility as a parent or a guardian to protect their eye health and ensure they have the necessary quantity/quality of sleep to grow.