Children and The Effect Of Blue Light

In this digital age, our children are exposed to gadgets and devices that for a lack of a better word have become necessary. Technology has gone through leaps and bounds and even education has become reliant on it. Our children are exposed to phone and tablet screens but are unaware that behind them lingers an invisible monster lurking around the bright lights and the visual stimuli. 

Blue light has been viewed as the bad light by many recent studies. However, contrary to popular knowledge, blue light is merely light with blue wavelengths. These are beneficial during the day because they help us keep attention, help with our mood and be reactive. Blue light gets a bad rep because of what it inherently does. So let’s get to know about blue light a bit. 

Knowing About Blue Light

Blue light is part of the visible light spectrum with a wavelength of between 400 to 490 nanometers. Although considered a short wavelength it is known as a high energy visible light (HEV). You can find natural blue light in sunlight which makes it highly influential to our sleep. Artificial blue light can be found in everyday devices like our phones, tablets and even on our televisions. 

Blue Light Keeps You Up

Well, the blue light emitted from screens acts like a mini sun to our body. As the blue light in sunlight influences our body to keep awake, it naturally delays the sleep.  The melatonin that helps us fall asleep gets delayed and our body wakes up resetting the circadian rhythm to a later time. Now, comparing that to say reading a book at night, the blue light from your phone or tablet tells your body that it has to keep awake since the “sunlight” is out. 

Another big problem with blue light is the effect on the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep that is necessary for restfulness. That’s one reason that even after 8 hours of sleep, you may feel unrested. So if you wonder the next day why you feel sleepier try to remember how much your screen on-time before falling asleep.

Children and Blue Light

child using a tablet where the screen is bright

Children, tweens and teenagers are prone to blue light exposure due to widespread gadget use. Kids who have access to their own smartphone or tablet are just getting younger and younger. 

In the United States, an average of children ages 8 to 12 spend about 4 to 6 hours a day in front of a screen while teens can spend up to 9 hours a day. Many parents may point out that due to the current situation, the education system has fully relied on these gadgets to continue school and this is highly understandable. However, the repercussions of their exposure to blue light is immense and they will suffer highly for it. 

The Direct Effects of Blue Light on Children

Children below the age of 14 or 15 years have eyes that are more sensitive to blue light as they are not yet fully developed. There’s a part of the eye called the crystalline lens - a flexible lens behind the iris that allows adults to focus - is more transparent in children. 

Children also have larger pupils so their eyes are completely exposed to higher levels of blue light waves. To top it all, the digital world is so widespread now that it permeates all aspects of modern society. We have television, video games, social media and smartphones and these contribute highly to the length of period children are exposed to blue light.

When your child is constantly bombarded with blue light, he or she may experience the following:

  • Eye fatigue
  • Digital eye strain
  • Eye pain
  • Blurry vision

There’s also the issue of having a good type of REM sleep which will be difficult with blue light exposure. They’ll be waking up feeling like they haven’t been able to sleep well at all. Considering that your children’s brains are developing and the havoc that constant exposure to blue light will do to their circadian rhythm, you’ll see them wearing prescription glasses in no time. 

Protection from Blue Light

So we now know that Blue Light isn’t the monster here. It’s our need to use our gadgets all day, everyday - even at night when we’re supposed to sleep. Children, who are highly affected by this light, need protection from it especially because they are highly prone to its effects. 

There are many ways to protect yourself from Blue Light. Here are some of the most common: 

The last suggestion may be the hardest to achieve given that the pandemic currently happening has forced schools to resort to online classes instead. But it is important that limits are set especially at night and before sleeping. 

Remember that your child has got only one pair of eyes. They will have to learn to take care of it when they get older. But for now, you’re their only line of defense.