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Should you buy blue light glasses for your kids?

a child using blue light glasses

Do blue light blocking glasses work for kids?

Kids' blue light glasses have special lenses that block certain light waves, which may help protect children's growing eyes from digital eye strain. Blue light lenses sometimes have a slight yellow tint.

You can buy prescription or non-prescription glasses with kid-sized frames and lenses that filter blue light. They don't filter out all blue light, but they can reduce your child's exposure to the blue-violet rays by 80% or more.

Parents may want to consider limiting screen time for younger kids and getting blue light glasses for those aged 12 and up — or younger kids who are looking at screens for hours a day, says Megan Lott, an optometrist at Belle Vue Specialty Eye Care, a practice in Mississippi that focuses on pediatric vision care.

"Those are the kids I do recommend a blue light blocker for because they're on their devices so incredibly much," Lott says.

A good pair of children's sunglasses is also essential for blocking UV light and blue light when your child is playing outside for hours or participating in an activity with lots of glare, like hanging out on the beach or skiing, Lott says.

She recommends polarized kids' sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.

"If you're wearing your sunglasses, your kids need to be wearing theirs," she says.

SEE RELATED: How much UV protection do sunglasses really need?

How does blue light affect children's eyes?

Blue light is all around us — it makes the sky blue and glows from the smartphone screens we use every day.

Does that mean you should consider buying blue light blocking glasses for your kids?

Parents who worry about blue light from screens can limit their children's screen time, teach them the 20-20-20 rule — looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds after 20 minutes in front of the screen — and buy their child blue light glasses, Lott says.

So, what is blue light anyway?

Blue light is visible light with shorter wavelengths and more energy than light at the other end of the color spectrum.

The sun is the primary source of blue light, but blue light also comes from:

  • Computers, tablets and smartphones

  • Television screens

  • Fluorescent lights

  • LED lights

The good news is that there's no evidence blue light from screens physically damages a child's eyes, Lott notes. But the jury is still out on any future effects.

"It's hard to know if there are any long-term effects because screens haven't been a daily part of our lives for that long," Lott says.

Balancing the sun's healthy blue light

Some time in the sun each day is healthy for kids, Lott points out. In fact, a little daily sun exposure may reduce the risk for myopia (nearsightedness) or slow its progression.

"The sun is good for your eyes," Lott says. "It has benefits."

But too much exposure to blue light from the sun over time could lead to retina damage. That's because more blue light reaches a child's retina than an adult's, according to the American Optometric Association.

Excess exposure to sunlight over the course of many years may lead to vision problems in adulthood. For example, blue light and UV light exposure may be linked to age-related macular degeneration, one of the leading causes of vision loss.

Blue light exposure and screen time

Kids get much less blue light exposure indoors than they do outdoors. But children who spend a lot of time in front of screens may be more likely to develop digital eye strain, sometimes known as computer vision syndrome.

Signs of digital eye strain in kids may include:

Too much screen time (and blue light exposure) can also disrupt the body's sleep cycle. This can lead to crankiness, sleepiness at school and certain health issues.

Kids' blue light glasses may be able to help, but they're only part of the overall solution. Staying vigilant about your child's screen habits and blue light exposure can help them develop happy, healthy eyes.

READ MORE: How technology affects children's eyes — and what you can do about it

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