As a college student, I spend at least half a day on my laptop in addition to my iPhone. Nowadays, children as young as 3 years old are watching shows on the mini tablets at the dinner table as they wait for their parents to finish their meal. It has become a requirement for some elementary and high schools to possess an iPad – not to mention, adolescents spend ample time on their devices for leisure. Most professions require proficient computer skills, which include programming, organizing spreadsheets, and many more. With this recent lifestyle change in which separation from electronic screens is impractical, it is important to consider how to minimize the negative effects such technology can have on our health.
Although increasing screen time inevitably promotes the sedentary lifestyle, a greater concern is the detrimental effects on our eyes. Computer monitors, tablets, and smartphones are sources of blue light, which is a component of light characterized by shorter wavelengths (400-490 nm) and greater energy. In 2014, researchers found that the use of electronic devices "before bedtime prolongs the time it takes to fall asleep, delays the circadian clock, suppresses levels of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, reduces the amount and delays the timing of REM sleep, and reduces alertness the following morning." In addition, they stated that the "Use of light-emitting devices immediately before bedtime also increases alertness at that time, which may lead users to delay bedtime at home." Detrimental effects on sleep have been associated with a number of problems such as obesity, depression, and diabetes.
A study in 2011 reported that compared to adults, children's eyes absorb blue light more when exposed to electronic screens. This is particularly problematic because an increasing number of children now own these devices at a younger age.
Some of the ways in which blue light can be avoided are to allocate a restricted amount of time on the laptop and the phone. In many circumstances – such as being a student or working full-time at an office desk – a full-day exposure to screens can be inevitable. As an alternative, blue light reflective glasses appears to have worked for some, and laptop and smartphone devices can have "night shift modes" where blue light emission is minimized.
More research is needed on the relationship between blue light and eye health for any conclusive results. However, I realize that it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially when it comes to my health.