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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 can filter certain light waves, which can increase eye comfort for children in an increasingly digital world. Computer glasses have long been used to decrease digital eye strain. But, blue light lenses usually have an additional slight yellow tint.

Blue light glasses go by a few different names. You might hear them called blue light-blocking glasses or blue light filter glasses. Sometimes, they're just called blue blockers. Even though many types of blue light glasses are called ‘blue-light blocking,’ it’s more accurate to say that they filter light.

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. 

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 filter for comfort 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 filtering 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 a small amount emanates from many of the LED displays we use every day. Even indoors, though, the main source of blue light is sunlight.

Does that mean you should consider buying blue light filtering 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 part of the visible light spectrum, with wavelengths from about 400 nm to 495 nm. It can be divided into two bands: blue-violet light (400-455 nm) and blue-turquoise light (465-495 nm).

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

  • Computers, tablets and smartphones

  • Television screens

  • Fluorescent lights

  • LED lights

Not all electronic screens are LED-based, so the type of blue light emitted may vary by device or manufacturer.

The good news is that there's no evidence blue light from screens physically damages a child's eyes, Lott notes. 

"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.

Blue-turquoise light from sunlight helps to regulate sleep/wake cycles. Also, the main source of blue light (including blue-violet light) is sunlight, even indoors. 

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

Some blue light studies have shown an effect on the retina, but these studies did not mimic the natural conditions of blue light exposure on a live human eye. They also did not use blue light from digital screens, according to the American Association of Ophthalmologists.

Any impact on a human retina by high-energy light from the sun is thought to be cumulative. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet light is known to cause harm to skin and eyes — but we don’t yet know how similarly prolonged exposure to blue light may affect us.

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

Kids screen time

While blue light is one concern associated with screens, the bigger issue is the amount of time kids spend on screens. 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 can lead to crankiness and sleepiness at school. Kids' blue light glasses may be able to increase comfort, but they're only part of the overall solution. It is important to remember that lightly tinted blue-light glasses typically filter blue-violet light, but not blue-turquoise light, which is what impacts the sleep/wake cycle. 

Not all products that claim to block blue light will filter blue-violet light or blue-turquoise light. Talk to your eye doctor to ensure your child’s blue light glasses filter the correct type of blue light for their needs.

Staying vigilant about your child's screen habits can help them develop healthy visual habits.

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

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