Devices are deeply enmeshed in our daily lives, and we don’t know all the implications for our health, especially in regards to extended exposure to the blue light of backlit displays. Given what we know, we recommend device makers consider using displays that emit less blue light, especially for educational devices that children use on a daily basis.
Where there’s still debate
There’s still debate about the effects of blue light and the efficacy of products like blue light blocking glasses. Recent studies from the University of Toledo and the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety have linked extended blue light exposure to serious retinal damage, calling prolonged exposure to blue light as “phototoxic” noting that photoreceptor cells in our eyes once damaged cannot replace themselves.
However, they also noted that the blue light from device displays hasn’t proven powerful enough to cause serious retinal damage, or at least they don’t know enough to make that sort of statement.
What everyone agrees on: The effects of blue light on sleep
Every study we’ve seen has been conclusive that exposure to blue light affects our circadian rhythms and disrupts our sleep-wake patterns, and that blue light has greater effects on children under the age of 20.
Circadian rhythms and school-aged children
Children have cleaner blue light vision; meaning their eyes haven’t yet developed pigments in them that can filter out these rays. As you age, your pigment increases and your “blue light vision” erodes significantly, and this means blue affects children more significantly.
Circadian rhythms take time to develop, which is why new parents often look like they could use a double espresso as their newborns learn a sleep-wake schedule.
Because it is not an innate system, environmental factors like light and sound have a great impact on these rhythms. Blue light suppresses melatonin in our bodies, which keeps us from falling asleep. The most significant source of blue light comes from the sun, which tells us it’s daytime and tells our bodies to wake up. Blue light in devices also suppresses melatonin, telling us not to sleep, which is why health professionals tell us not to watch tv or scroll through our smartphone just before bed. They recommend shutting down our devices 2 hours before bed to ensure restful sleep.
For kids that have to complete homework on a tablet with a display, this can be very challenging. It’s partially why companies like Apple are offering modes of display that use less blue light. Getting good sleep is especially important for growing bodies and devices that emit a lot of blue light could be getting in the way.
Safety over Dazzle
While many device makers are pushed to create a dazzling future-forward consumer experience, the educational market prioritizes safety and utility.
A device that uses a front light display panel makes more sense for this application than a typical backlight or OLED. Not only will it emit less blue light, but it will use less power and can be viewable outside. So, unlike most tablets, which are hard to read in direct sunlight, reflective devices with front lit panels can use that sunlight to light the screen.
Our increasing use of devices with display doesn’t have to be a cause for alarm, especially if we use front lit, reflective devices that emit less blue light. RLCDs operate on robust LCD technology and offer significant power savings, which are added bonuses to consider.
Discover more about our innovative LED front light guide panel for consumer electronics, such as tablets and educational devices for children.