By the time average American children reach age 17, their eyes will have spent the equivalent of nearly six years looking at digital devices, according to findings from a new survey by VSP Vision Care.

While the survey shows that parents are concerned with increasing screen time, it found that nearly 60 percent have little to no awareness of blue light — the high-energy light emitted from digital devices — and its impact on vision. As blue light enters the eye, it causes visual strain because it is de-focused in front of the retina and scatters, creating an effect visually perceived as glare. The eyes are then forced to work overtime to focus and process the wavelengths of light.

From smartphones, to tablets, laptops, televisions, and even CFL and LED lighting, today’s family is surrounded by devices that produce blue light. As we spend increasing amounts of time staring at screens, blue light exposure is reaching unprecedented levels. This has led to an alarming increase in reports of digital eye strain, especially amongst children who are experiencing tired, sore eyes, headaches and trouble focusing.

“At home, in classrooms and at work, our eyes are exposed to blue light,” says VSP optometrist, Dr. Gary Morgan. “Technology continues to change the way we live and allows us to be more efficient and connected, but despite its benefits, we must be mindful of the impact of increased blue light exposure on our eyes.”

Dr. Morgan offers the fol- lowing tips to reduce blue light exposure and maintain good eye health.

• Get an Eye Exam: An annual trip to the eye doctor is critical for the entire family. Ask your eye doctor about the best options to help reduce eye strain, including eyeglass lenses with coatings that reflect and absorb blue light, like Sharper Image TechShield.

• Observe the 20/20/20 Rule: Give eyes a break every 20 minutes and spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away.

• Maintain Digital Distance: Find a comfortable working distance from your screen. This is especially important for children, since the intensity of light increases exponentially the closer our eyes are to light sources. Children have shorter arms and therefore receive a more intense dose of blue light from devices. They should hold devices as far away from their eyes as is comfortable.

• Lower Screen Brightness: Turn down the brightness level of device screens to reduce blue light exposure, especially during evening hours.

• Limit Screen Time Before Bed: Blue light can slow melatonin production, which helps us sleep. Reducing exposure to blue light a couple of hours before bed may make it easier to go to sleep.

More information about the effects of blue light and protection options can be found at “While medical research continues to study possible long-term health impacts of blue light, we can take practical steps to reduce exposure, ease digital eye strain and maintain good vision,” says Dr. Morgan.