06 Sep Does My Kid Need Blue Blocking Glasses?
September 6, 2020 by Deborah Zanella, O.D.
With virtual learning becoming part of our new norm these days, kids are spending more time than ever looking at screens. Many parents are wondering:
1. “Is this increased screen time harmful to my kids’ eyes?” and
2. “Is it necessary to buy blue light filtering or computer glasses for protection?”
The quick answer to part one “is increased screen time harmful?” is: possibly, but not because of the blue light. I will explain some of these other reasons and offer some tips to help. The answer to part two of “does my kids need blue blocking lenses?” is: possibly, but not really for their eyes, (however it won’t hurt.)
Blue light has become all the rage in recent years. As much as media and marketing from lens companies would have us believe that we all need blue blocking lenses to protect our eyes, at this point, the actual scientific evidence is just not there. Both the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the College of Optometrists agree that there is not currently sufficient evidence to support the use of blue light filtering glasses. While it is true that too much unfiltered blue light (from the sun) is harmful for the eyes, the blue light coming from screens even after many hours is an insignificant amount and has not been shown to cause harm to our eyes. Affect one’s circadian rhythm (sleep cycle), yes. Cause damage to one’s eyes, no.
When should you use a blue blocking lens? Because blue light exposure can definitely affect one’s circadian rhythm, screens should be avoided 2 hours before bedtime. If this is not feasible and/or your child is not sleeping well, then by all means get the blue blocking lenses! If your child does not want to wear glasses or if you don’t want the extra stress of keeping up with them, you can purchase a blue light filter to place over the computer screen itself.
If your child is experiencing eye strain at the computer, he or she may indeed be suffering from digital eyestrain, but this is not actually from blue light itself. It is usually due to accommodative strain (more near focusing demand than the eye can comfortably handle) or the eyes becoming dry and irritated because one’s blink rate decreases to approximately 1/3 of normal when staring at a screen.
If accommodative strain is the culprit of computer related eye discomfort, some blue blocking lenses do have a very mild reading prescription in them that can help alleviate some of the focusing demand of the eye. These are hit or miss in over the counter lenses, but I have seen anecdotally some patients who feel improvement in eye strain with their blue blocking glasses. In these particular cases, the benefit is coming from the light reading power of the lens relaxing the eyes’ focusing muscles rather than the blue light filtering properties of the lens.
If dry/ irritated eyes are the root of the problem, then blinking exercises and artificial tears (do not use the “get the red out drops”!) can help. I prefer a preservative free artificial tear that simply lubricates the ocular surface. However, both accommodative strain and dry eye are best diagnosed and corrected with a comprehensive eye examination, and individualized treatment plan. Please see my previous article on “6 Tips for Healthy Eyes During Virtual Learning” for a more detailed discussion of these and other causes of digital eye strain.