The use of technology has exploded. Its everywhere you look and you can't avoid screens. They are in the bank, the supermarket, the gas station, the movie theater etc.
Children are starting to use technology at a younger age than ever before. The Vision Council reported in 2015 that the use of computers, tablets, and other digital devices has become so commonplace in the daily lives of children, that close to 25% of children spend more than 3 hours a day using some sort of digital device. Over time, these numbers are only expected to grow.
As technology gets more innovative and sophisticated, these devices are becoming integrated into schools and becoming more common for use at a younger age. Many experts and parents are wondering how the use of these devices and the excessive exposure to blue light can negatively affect children’s eyes in the short and long term.
Computer Vision Syndrome (aka Digital Eye Strain)
Children are susceptible to computer vision syndrome (CVS), also called digital eye strain. Just like adults, they can experience symptoms of CVS after extended use of computers or digital devices. These symptoms include eye fatigue and eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.
Childrens' eyes and visual system are less developed than adults and staring at a computer screen is a greater stress for their eyes. Their eyes are not used to the computer generated pixelated images and it causes their eyes to strain after extended viewing. Their eyes have a super difficult time focusing on those pixelated images and some children find it very uncomfortable. They just don't have the focusing power to spend extended amounts of time looking at these pixelated images.
Children are extremely impulsive and don’t always have the self-control to limit computer use. They also get engrossed in their favorite games or youtube videos and don't have the self-awareness to know when they are experiencing eye fatigue or other symptoms of CVS. Without proper parental supervision or using the 20-20-20 rule, they are more likely to overuse digital devices which can make symptoms worse.
Screen Use and Myopia
Myopia or nearsightedness is a growing concern as studies show the incidences of the condition are growing exponentially. In the past it was thought that myopia was primarily genetic, however recent research indicates a correlation between environmental factors and the growing exposure to and use of digital devices, particularly in children. As children increase their computer use and time spent on screen, the likelihood of developing myopia seems to also be increasing. According to a study done at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry which researched the incidence of myopia in 253 children between 6 years old and 10 years old showed a link with the amount of time spent on a computer.
The Effects of Blue Light
Blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light is emitted from digital devices and is causing greater and greater concerns about long term exposure. It is already known that blue light can affect sleep and concentration but studies are also indicating that it can cause long term retinal damage, particularly in kids whose young eye have more sensitivity to environmental influences.
Ask Our Woodbury Optometrist How to Protect Your Kid from CVS
With the increasing use of and dependence upon digital devices it is important to teach your children good habits to protect their eyes while they are young. Understanding the risks and dangers of prolonged screen time should be taught at an early age. Here are some tips for safe computer and digital device use to reduce digital eye strain and prevent the negative effects it can have on your children’s eyes and vision.
- Limit Screen Time: When possible limit screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don’t require computers for school work.
- Optimize Your Children’s Work Station: Ensure that children are positioned properly and that lighting is appropriate so that they do not have to bend or stretch in unnatural ways to see the screen adequately. The monitor should be slightly below the child’s eye line and about 18 - 28 inches away. The chair should also be adjusted so that the child’s arms comfortably rest on the desk and his or her feet touch the floor (when possible).
- Have Regular Eye Exams: Monitor your child’s eyesight, particularly an assessment of their near vision skills.
- Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away.
- Get in the Habit of Stretching: At regular intervals stretch the back, arms, shoulders and neck to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness.
- Consider Computer Glasses: Computer glasses are made to help the eyes focus more easily on the computer screen. If your child already wears prescription eyewear, prescription computer glasses are available as well.
- Anti-glare: Anti-glare screens or coatings on eyeglasses can reduce glare and eye strain.
- Look for signs of eye or vision problems such as blurred vision or eye rubbing, redness or a stiff neck. If you notice any lasting vision problems see our eye doctor near Woodbury, NY for an examination.