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Blue light-blocking glasses, with digital device usage on the rise during the COVID-19 pandemic (particularly among children and adolescents), continue to grow in popularity.

These eyeglasses contain special filters for absorbing excess blue light from digital devices. Eyewear companies claim they help to improve sleep, reduce eye strain and lower your risk for eye disease.

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But should you get a pair for yourself or your child? Given there is currently no scientific evidence suggesting blue light from screens damages your eyes, there really is no need to purchase blue light-blocking glasses, says Samantha Feldman, M.D., a pediatric ophthalmologist at the Krieger Eye Institute.

It is important to understand that it’s how you use your digital devices, not blue light itself, that can cause eye strain. “Maybe you’re not wearing the correct glasses, or you’re not positioned well at the computer, or the light on the screen or in the room is too bright or too dim, or you’re not taking enough breaks,” Feldman says.

Blue light is practically everywhere. It is emitted by the sun and indoor lighting. Only a small amount of blue light comes from screens.

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Why it’s important to limit screen time before bed

Although blue light does not damage your eyes, it can disrupt your sleep cycle. Blue light from the sun—and screens—can affect your circadian rhythm. Excessive light before bed can limit melatonin production and thus disrupt your sleep. “The really cool thing about all of our devices now is that they all have night mode settings that decrease blue light and make the colors on the screen warmer,” Feldman says. “It’s best not to use devices before sleep, but if you need to use a device close to your bedtime, you can activate the built-in night mode settings.”

Other ways to protect your eyes from excessive screen time

In addition to enabling the night mode settings on your device, you can do the following things to reduce or avoid eye strain, dry eyes and other conditions commonly associated with too much screen time:

  • Take rest breaks. Follow the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break to look 20 feet away.
  • Reduce screen glare. As glare on a digital screen can aggravate the eye, try using a screen glare filter.
  • Adjust the lighting in your environment. Your eyes work harder when your screen and the surrounding room brightness do not match, so consider adjusting your room lighting by using window blinds or drapes or putting lower-wattage bulbs in your desk lamp. Also, try adjusting the brightness and contrast of your screen.
  • Blink often. This can help reduce your chances of developing dry eyes.
  • Wear glasses instead of contact lenses. Contacts can often worsen dry eyes.
  • Position your computer screen appropriately. Ideally, the computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
  • Go outside. Spending time outside is thought to decrease the development of myopia in kids.

Determining the appropriate amount of screen time for children can be challenging for parents. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids until they are 2 years old (except for video chatting) and no more than one hour of screen time for children ages 2 to 5.

“Although there is no evidence that blue light damages the eyes, the increasing amount of near work on screens may be putting susceptible children at risk for other problems like dry eyes and progressive myopia,” says Feldman.

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