Only On 6: Digital Dangers - Newschannel 6 Now | Wichita Falls, TX

Only On 6: Digital Dangers

Technology is changing the way we live our lives.  In today's world computers, iPads, tablets and smart phones are what some would call a necessity, but it's not just for adults anymore.

These devices are creating a new generation of kids getting more screen time than ever before.  IPads are replacing text books in schools and children are starting to use smart phones at an early age.  Even a baby seat with an iPad attachment is stirring some controversy, allowing children not even old enough to walk to get exposure.

"Oh wow, I haven't seen that.  I think that's horrible because if the baby is barely learning how to walk, then why are they using an iPad?" said Melanie Delong, a Texoma parent.

"Oh no, I'm not using any of that.  Nothing like that," said expectant mother Dominique Stevenson.

The questions becomes, how much screen time is too much?  Experts warn children who get a head start on these devices might pay a price.

"My almost seven-year-old said the other day he had a headache.  So we made him put his iPod Touch down and not play that day," said Delong.

"My little sister is five-years-old and she already needs glasses," said Wichita Falls resident Gilberto Rodriguez.

Frequent exposure and use of these devices comes with some risks.  Nicole Saens, a Nurse Practitioner at the Community Healthcare Center Juarez Medical Clinic has seen the effects first hand.

"It is concerning.  It's starting younger and younger.  So of course, we can expect health outcomes to be affected by that," she said.

The average American child over the age of eight spends seven hours a day using some type of device, such as a computer, iPad or smart phone.  Healthcare experts stated, that's more hours than some actually spend sleeping.

Too much screen time can result in what's known as Computer Vision Syndrome.  Symptoms include eye strain, headaches, dry eyes, blurry vision, neck and shoulder pain.

"It's a product of our society I suppose.  Being in a poorly lit room causes increased strain on the eyes, and the contrast on the screen between the white background and dark lettering causes the eye to have to work a little bit harder," said Saens.

Children are also holding devices too close to their faces, which are supposed to be kept at least 18 inches away.

"It's not just computers, but video games too.  You have to make sure they're not far sighted, not near sighted, they don't have astigmatism and we need to make sure that their refocusing ability is working normally," said Dr. Tom Sheriff, Optometrist for more than 30 years.

To ease strain on the eyes, Dr. Sheriff recommended children conduct what's known as the 20-20-10 rule.

"If you looked at the computer screen for 20 minutes, you should look at something at least 20 feet away for 10 seconds.  Take a break, let your eyes relax and then come back to it," he said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has published guidelines which recommended no more than one to two hours maximum screen time per day for children up to 18, stressing moderation as key.

As technology continues to improve and newer devices fall into the hands of children, experts said it's important for parents to limit exposure children have to these devices and be aware of digital dangers.

"There are definitely good and bad things with the computer use.  I think we just need to be educated about both aspects, which is the important thing," said Dr. Sheriff.

Experts also recommended children turn away from any screen at least 30 minutes before bed.  Studies show screen time limits the body's ability to produce Melatonin and can make it tough to get a good night's sleep.

Cynthia Kobayashi, Newschannel 6.
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