Helping students to be proactive about preventing blue light exposure

Middle schoolers at Lake Worth, Florida, recently got a lesson about blue light exposure that may be helpful to you and your family heading into summer — a time when there could be a temptation to park in front of digital devices for long stretches.

“Outside activities are still the top pick for kids — but playing on digital devices and watching TV are high on the list, too,” said Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eye care officer at UnitedHealthcare. “We want young people to be aware of the blue light that comes with that screen time and what it may mean for their eye health and overall well-being.”

The sun is the largest source of blue light, but TVs, computers and smartphones also emit it. Excessive blue-light exposure from digital devices is of particular concern because of how close the user’s eyes typically are to screens and for how long.

Researchers continue to evaluate the potential health implications that may come from too much exposure to blue light, including sleep problems and various symptoms that are collectively called digital eye strain. Compared to adults, children may be at higher risk for issues, as their still-developing eyes may allow more blue light to reach their retinas.

The School District of Palm Beach County and Lake Worth Middle School recently collaborated with UnitedHealthcare to host a webinar for students that focused on strategies for reducing excessive exposure to blue light. It was part of a combined $100,000 donation from UnitedHealthcare to school districts across the country, including a $20,000 contribution to The School District of Palm Beach County and 1,000 screen protectors from Eyesafe®. 

Watch: Lake Worth Middle School’s video on the blue-light webinar

In connection with the webinar, some of the screen filters were retrofitted to existing digital devices to help reduce exposure to blue light for students at the school.

“Filters are a good option because they can reduce light at the source to help protect the user from potential risks,” Dr. Edmonds said. “It helps to make every screen-time session a bit safer.”

Here are some other ideas the students learned for reducing exposure to blue light:

  • Cut back on the overall amount of time spent in front of screens
  • Buy technology with built-in protection that helps reduce blue light, such as Dell XPS laptops with embedded blue-light blocking properties  
  • Use night mode, a warmer-looking setting that may appear as a yellow or amber tint
  • Consider computer glasses with yellow-tinted lenses that help reduce blue light

Beyond these measures, remember that a comprehensive eye exam should be part of your child’s health checkups. The American Optometric Association recommends an exam before first grade and annually, or as recommended, thereafter.

Getting an exam scheduled over the summer may make it easier to be ready for the next school year — especially because the ability to see is crucial for children’s scholastic and social development.

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