MedWatch Today: How tablet time is affecting your child’s vision and development

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Many young children are exposed to screen time, whether it’s television, a smart phone, or a tablet. As one of the only two pediatric opthalmologists in the region, EYE-Q Vision Care’s Dr. Derick Holt said time spent on the tablet can really affect their development.

Dr. Holt said vision is learned, and each child’s vision develops at his or her own rate.

“Newborn babies all have very poor vision, and a lot of people don’t realize that babies actually have to, children actually have to learn vision. Vision is something that is learned over years in childhood,” stated Dr. Holt.

Babies and young children can play on a tablet, but Dr. Holt said it’s crucial they also play with real toys, like blocks, puzzles, and shape sorters, that way they develop 3D vision and hand-eye coordination.

He commented, “There’s a lot of access to tablets and phones and things like that, and there’s a lot of concern about, is that harming a baby’s eyes? The tablets themselves are not necessarily harmful, but it’s very important for babies to actually play with real toys. It’s not the same to be stacking blocks on an iPad game, as it is to actually stack blocks in real life.”

Dr. Holt said it’s important children interact with the world, so he suggests parents take their children out to play at a playground or with other children. He said parents must be their child’s health advocate.

“If you are concerned that there’s something wrong, sometimes things can be a sign of a problem with vision. Sometimes kids will squint their eyes a lot, close one eye all the time, kids that tilt their head can sometimes be doing that because there’s a problem with their eyes,” stated Dr. Holt.

Kids with poor vision may not know how to communicate their issue. Parents should always take their children on regular well-visits, so pediatricians can assess the child’s eye and vision.

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