Sep 30, 2019

Dr. Gellner: Parents come in frequently with concerns about their child's eyesight. Some kids like to read in the dark with just a flashlight. I was one of them. But does reading in dim light really affect your child's vision?

Announcer: Remember that one thing, that one person told you, that one time, about what you should or shouldn't do with raising your kids? Find out if it's true or not. This is "Debunking Old Wives Tales" with Dr. Cindy Gellner on The Scope.

Dr. Gellner: Yes. I was one of those kids who my parents constantly had to tell me to get my nose out of a book even long after it was supposed to be bedtime and my parents would find me with just the little bedside lamp or flashlight. Kind of like kids with the electronics these days, it was hard to get me to stop reading. It's no surprise that one of the biggest concerns I hear from parents is that the kids are reading in the dark and they want me, the doctor, to tell their child that reading without a lot of light is bad for their eyes. Well, at that point, I have to tell the parents that reading in low light damaging a child's eyes is actually an old wives' tale. Yep, that's not true.

Now what is true is that the lower the light level, the harder it is for one's eyes to focus. That can cause short-term problems with eye fatigue. Eye fatigue is basically when your eyes have to work harder to do their job no matter what the situation. You can have a lot of bright light, but if you're staring at a computer screen all day, you're going to get the same eye fatigue. This can also cause dry eyes because you don't blink as much as you should. But dryness doesn't damage the eyeball itself in cases like this. So if your kid likes to read in dim light, I'd encourage them to use better lighting more to help the eye fatigue, but I'd just be happy that your child is reading and not on a video screen or watching TV all the time.

Speaking of eyes and screen time, what about those kids who like to sit too close to a TV? While you may want to get their vision checked to make sure they don't need glasses to see clearer, sitting too close to the TV won't hurt a child's eyes either. Just be sure to limit screen time to two hours or less per day for the most part. Not only will it help with eye fatigue, but it will also make sure that your kids are doing something other than just vegging out.

If you have concerns about your child's vision for any reason, your pediatrician can do a quick screening test to determine if they need to be seen by an eye specialist.

Announcer: Have a question about a medical procedure? Want to learn more about a health condition? With over 2,000 interviews with our physicians and specialists, there's a pretty good chance you'll find what you want to know. Check it out at

For Patients