Classroom Technology

Should Blue Light Glasses Be on Your Back-to-School Shopping List?

By Alyson Klein — July 24, 2019 2 min read
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Pencils. Protractors. Folders. Highlighters. And ... blue light glasses?

Blue light glasses, or filters, can help block light from digital devices. Given all the time kids spend these days on iPads and Chromebooks in school, parents should consider adding them to the back-to-school shopping list, one eye doctor suggested.

“We do know that exposure of blue light can cause a lot of digital eye strain,” said Jennifer Wademan, an optometrist, in an interview arranged with representatives for VSP Global, a company that makes lenses with an anti-reflective coating that reduces blue light exposure. (VSP also offers vision benefits. Wademan is part of their network of physicians).

Too much exposure to blue light can cause “tired eyes, red eyes, even neck pain,” Wademan said. She recommends that parents who are worried about those problems discuss blue light glasses with their children’s eye-doctor, as part of a regular comprehensive eye-exam.

But Caroline Knorr, the senior parenting editor at Common Sense Media, a consumer advocacy organization, is highly skeptical of the idea that blue light glasses are a back-to-school must. Most parents should save their money for other things, she said.

“Blue-light glasses tend to run about $20,” she said. “That’ll buy you a lot of paper and a lot of pens and a lot of highlighters and a lot of glue-sticks. That’s the stuff kids really need for school.”

What’s more, a number of devices, including Apple and Android systems, have built-in, free filters that can help combat eyestrain, Knorr said. And there are blue-light filtering apps, many of them free.

“You don’t have to spend money on extra stuff, usually,” Knorr said. “It’s not completely bunk this idea that blue light is a problem for students, but there are lot of other ways you can combat blue light.” (Wademan’s take: It’s hard to tell just how much blue-light those less expensive options block. She would want to see more information before recommending them, she said.)

Knorr had another solution: Parents should make sure their kids aren’t susceptible to eyestrain by getting them to turn off their devices already. In particular, “the protocol is for kids to get off their screens and parents to get off their screens at least an hour before bedtime,” she said.

“Parents should absolutely be trying to find ways to make sure their kids aren’t spending too much time online. It’s really a lifestyle issue and a parenting issue,” she said. “I do think parents should view a lot of things that come in for back-to- school marketing with a healthy skepticism and get the basics first.”

Wademan, though, isn’t sure that’s practical in the digital age, particularly during the school day. “I think nowadays it’s going to be really hard to limit the technology,” she said. But she suggested teachers give students periodic breaks from staring at screens.

What do you think? Should blue light glasses make it in the back-to-school shopping cart? Comments section is open.

Want more on blue-light? Check out these stories:

Blue Light’ May Impair Students’ Sleep, Studies Say

Children’s Sleep Problems Linked to Attention Disorders

A Third of Students Need Eye Exams, Study Finds

Blue-Spectrum Light May Boost Classroom Cognition, Study Says

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.