Using computers is a routine part of kids’ lives these days and they often start sitting in front of a computer screen before the age of nine. Children may spend up to three hours a day on a computer surfing the Internet, doing homework, talking with friends and playing video games. You may wonder how all of this computer use is affecting your child’s eyes.
Computer Use and Myopia
Some eye doctors who specialize in children’s vision say that sustained computer use puts your child’s vision at risk for childhood myopia, also known as nearsightedness. A research study at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry seems to support this theory. They found a strong connection between the amount of time young children spend on the computer and their development of nearsightedness.
Computers can be Hard on Kids’ Eyes
Children’s eyes are still changing and computer use stresses the eyes more than reading a book because it’s harder to maintain focus on computer-generated images than on printed images. This is especially true for younger kids whose eyesight is not fully matured.
Kids may be especially vulnerable to computer-related vision problems for the following reasons:
• They have a limited degree of self-awareness which may cause them to sit at the computer for hours with few breaks. Such prolonged activity can cause focusing and eyestrain problems.
• Even if their eyesight is impaired or slowly deteriorating, children assume that what they see and how they see is normal.
• Because most computer workstations are often arranged for adult use, there’s an increased risk of kids sitting too near the screen or adopting unusual postures that can lead to eyestrain, as well as neck, shoulder and back pain.
How to Prevent Computer Vision Syndrome
The following are some tips for preventing your child from developing eyestrain or other CVS symptoms, including myopia:
1. Make sure your child has a complete eye exam, including an assessment of his/her computer and reading vision skill, before he/she starts school.
2. Provide a computer work station that suits your child’s body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eyes is 18 to 28 inches for children. The screen should be a few inches below the child’s eyes. Adjust the chair so that the arms are parallel with the surface of the desk and the feet rest comfortably on the floor. This will help to avoid posture problems and strained muscles.
3. Be aware of the signs and symptoms of vision troubles such as red eyes, frequent rubbing of the eyes and complaints of blurriness or eye fatigue. Also watch for head turns and other unusual postures. If your child avoids the computer or school work, this may also indicate a vision problem.
If you suspect your child may be developing a problem with their eyesight, be sure to mention it to your eye doctor. They may want to perform special tests related to computer vision problems.