Too Much Screen Time Could Be Damaging Children’s Eyes, Doctors Say

Glands crucial to good vision disappearing in young people

What to Know

  • Meibomian glands are crucial for producing oil and keeping your eyes healthy.
  • Producing the oil requires blinking, and children may be getting too much screen time instead.
  • If those glands dry up and disappear, it can lead to blurry vision, pain, itching, burning and corneal scar tissue.

Ophthalmologists say they're seeing an increase in conditions like dry eyes and nearsightedness in children and worry smartphones and tablets are taking a serious toll on their eyes.

“We found that screen time seems to be the biggest culprit of why young children seem to be losing their meibomian glands at a record pace,” said Dr. Sandra Cremers of Visionary Eye Doctors.

Meibomian glands are crucial for producing oil and keeping your eyes healthy.

“For the first time in history, see these glands literally disappearing in young people,” Cremers said. “And it's making us very nervous.”

The gland is key to preventing eye pain and helping with the vision, she said.

Part of the problem is too much screen time and not enough blinking.

“We highly discourage Fortnite because it has an amazing ability to really entrap a child, and they will only partially blink,” Cremers said.

“When you don't blink, you don't milk the oil gland, and this oil gland is similar to the milk gland of a cow,” she explained. “If you don't milk the cow, it's going to dry up.”

If those glands dry up and disappear, it can lead to blurry vision, pain, itching, burning and corneal scar tissue. That damage can’t be undone.

“It's kind of a race against time, because aging will make those glands disappear,” Cremers said.

There are things that can help like the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, remind your child to look out a window or at an object that's 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

Also, avoid watching tablets and computers in brightly lit areas to help protect against eye strain.

Blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets and TVs may also be part of the problem. There are special glasses and screen protectors that can help block out the blue light and protect your child's eyesight.

Reported by Doreen Gentzler, produced by Patricia Fantis and edited by Perkins Broussard.

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