No screen time before a child is 18 months old, US study recommends

Many people may be aware that the blue light emanating from the various screens they engage with can have negative effects on their health, but choose to carry on regardless.

However, when it comes to children and their developing vision, the effects of screen time cannot be ignored.

RELATED: Small screen time is affecting kids' depth perception, says Nikki Bush

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidelines on managing children's screen time which include two golden rules:

  • No screen time before a child is 18 months old

  • A maximum of one supervised hour of screen time for preschoolers per day

CapeTalk's Africa Melane speaks to Dr Daemon McClunan, ophthalmologist at the University of Cape Town's (UCT) Private Academic Hospital, to find out if this is really necessary.

Dr McClunan acknowledges that blue light can negatively affect adults as well as youngsters, but says children are more susceptible as they are still physically developing.

It interacts with tissue and releases a lot of energy into tissue.

Dr Daemon McClunan, Ophthalmologist - UCT Private Academic Hospital

They're more susceptible to damage from multiple sources... A lot more of this blue light actually makes it through to the retina where it can do its damage.

Dr Daemon McClunan, Ophthalmologist - UCT Private Academic Hospital

He says the possible harmful effects of this high-energy light range from eye-strain and a disturbed sleep cycle to permanent damage to the retina, which is essential for vision.

There's evidence that shows this may accelerate the age-related macular degeneration process, which is one of the leading causes of blindness... It's obviously only at very high doses that this can be true.

Dr Daemon McClunan, Ophthalmologist - UCT Private Academic Hospital

Dr McClunan also gives a rundown of the available products to help protect children when they do need to spend time on a computer or smartphone. These include screen filters and the so-called computer glasses which a kid can wear.

For more of this important conversation, listen here:


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