Are there worrisome effects of blue light on children’s eyesight?

First, a basic explanation of blue light from Joel Kestenbaum, an optometrist with Optix Family Eye Care in Plainview: Light is made up of various wavelengths, and each wavelength is a particular color; the shorter wavelengths are in the blue spectrum and some of them can be harmful.

“Blue light has historically only come from the sun,” Kestenbaum says. But with widespread use of technological devices such as smartphones and tablets, which emit blue light, people have more exposure to those wavelengths, he said. Children are especially vulnerable, he said, because their pupils are usually larger and because their shorter arms may cause them to hold devices closer to their eyes.

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The fear of some scientists is that the long-term effect might be an increase in macular degeneration and occurrence of the disease at younger ages, Kestenbaum says. “A lot of studies have come out showing the effect of blue light on the retinal tissue,” he says. Macular degeneration causes a loss of central vision — what you see directly in front of you — and has been a disease of the post-65-year-old population. “What scientists believe is that macular degeneration is going to be a disease of people in their 40s,” he says.

In addition to limiting children’s screen time, Kestenbaum suggests setting devices to “nighttime” mode at all times to reduce blue light exposure. If a child wears glasses, parents should consult their eye doctor about whether they should add a filter that blocks a degree of blue light, he advises. If a child doesn’t wear glasses, parents might consider nonprescription lenses with a blue light filter for use when a child is doing homework on a tablet or using a smartphone or computer at home, Kestenbaum says.

While the long-term effects of blue light on children's eyesight aren't known, concerned parents can to take steps to limit exposure. Photo Credit: Dreamstime