Consumer Reports: Is technology harming kids' eyes, ears?

Children 8 and under spend an average of about two-and-a-quarter of hours per day on devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs. Parents often struggle with how much is too much and with all that time on devices, young eyes and ears could possibly be harmed. Consumer Reports has what you need to know for safer screen time and audio levels.

Valia Portela DeViola is concerned that screen time and headphone use could be causing eye and ear damage to her teenage daughter.

"I find myself telling her 'back off, back off' from the phone," she said. "Give yourself some space. My concern is the effect on her vision over time."

Eye doctors are seeing a marked increase in conditions such as dry eye and nearsightedness in children.

"Looking at the screens up close cause the eye to shift focus and over time, and can cause the eyeball to lengthen, which can lead to or worsen nearsightedness," said Consumer Reports Health Editor Julia Calderone.

New research suggests that blue light emitted by smartphones, tablets, computers and TVs might, over time, damage the retina, the thin layer at the back of the eye that contains light-sensitive cells.

Experts agree that children's eyes need regular breaks from tech activities in what is called the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look out a window or at an objects that is at least 20 feet away, for 20 seconds.

When it comes to children's hearing, audiologists are concerned that the continual use of headphones at unsafe volume levels may lead to an increase in hearing problems in children and teens.

"Experts recommend that if you can hear the music coming from your kids' headphones when they're listening, it's too loud," Calderone said. "Alternately, if you're trying to talk and they're listening to their headphones and they can't hear you, it's too loud."

When it comes to hearing safety, experts suggest the 80-90 rule, you shouldn't listen to music at 80 percent of the volume of your device for more than 90 minutes per day.

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