Children and Computer Vision Syndrome
Computers, tablets, digital devices and online learning have become a routine part of kids' lives. This digital component of everyday life puts stress on a visual system that is not yet fully developed. It is no surprise digital eye strain among children is rapidly increasing, with growing numbers of children now experiencing symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
The amount of time kids spend on computers, tablets, and digital devices is on the rise.
- A 2016 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics shows 17% of children 6 to 17 years of age are exposed to six or more hours of digital media per day; and 36% of this age group use digital devices for two to four hours a day.
- A 2017 Vision Council report shows 56% of parents say their children experience symptoms of digital eye strain (DES) after only two hours of screen time.
- By the time a child reaches 17, they will have spent over 50,000 hours (a third of their life) on a computer, tablet, or digital device.
So how is all of this computer use at younger and younger ages affecting kids' eyes?:
Myopia (nearsightedness) is a growing concern. Studies show the incidences of myopia (nearsightedness) growing exponentially among children. It was previously thought myopia was primarily genetic. However, recent studies show a strong correlation between how much time children spend on the computer or other digital devices, including smart phones, and their development of nearsightedness.
Our eyes react differently when viewing a computer screen versus printed material for many reasons. There is less contrast between images and the background, characters aren't as sharply defined, viewing angles are different, etc. These differences lead to symptoms associated with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) or digital eye strain.
As schools move away from standard paper books to tablets, or fewer hours in traditional classrooms to increased online learning, greater numbers of children are going to experience symptoms of digital eyestrain, Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS):
- Blurred or double vision, or words appearing to move on the screen
- Body fatigue – at the end of the school day the neck, shoulders, back and eyes can feel sore or tired
- Dry eye – this used to be a symptom associated with age, but not so anymore. Blink rates are reduced when staring at screens, which decreases the amount of moisture (tear film produced and oils secreted) on the eye
- Eye rubbing – it may feel good to rub the eye muscles, but it's not good for the eye
- Headaches – becoming more common among children
- Light sensitivity – most noticeable at the end of the day, and can affect night vision
- Reduced concentration – it is difficult for children to focus on a screen for extended periods of time, and the need to take a “screen break” can also result in breaking the child's focus and concentration
What can parents do?:
- Schedule an appointment : with a residency-trained pediatric eye doctor to rule out any underlying vision conditions (uncorrected refractive error, eye misalignment, binocular vision deficits, etc).
- Understand glasses prescribed specifically for computer use are very common. If recommended, it is important to help your child understand the importance of wearing them. Even a slight prescription left uncorrected, or an incorrect prescription, can have tremendous effects when using digital devices
- Monitor screen time, take frequent breaks, and use the 20/20 rule: every 20 minutes look away from the screen and focus on an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds, and during this time blink 20 times
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