Is Your Child At Risk Of Computer Vision Syndrome?
As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your child safe and healthy. You wouldn't dream of missing his well-child care appointments with his pediatrician and work hard to see that he eats a balanced diet. What you may not realize is your preschool or elementary school age child may be a risk of developing a common vision problem called computer vision syndrome which can lead in the need for glasses.
What is Computer Vision Syndrome?
As you may have guessed, computer vision syndrome (CVS) is the technical term for strained or tired eyes as a result of reading computer screens, tablets and other digital devices. Adults often recognize the symptoms and take measures, such a walking away from the computer, to rest their eyes; however, children may lack the experience to realize their eyes need a break. This often results in increased eyestrain that can lead to more serious eye problems.
CVS Leads to Myopia
Prolonged eyestrain can lead to myopia, commonly referred to as nearsightedness. Without intervention, the condition can become progressively worse, changing the shape of the eye and affecting your child's ability to see objects clearly at a distance. In some cases, children with CVS must be fitted with corrective lenses to compensate for the damage done to the eye. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prevent CVS from damaging your child's eyesight.
According to All About Vision, many eye doctors recommend the "20-20-20 rule." This means that when your child is busy on a computer or video game screen he should take a break every 20 minutes to focus his eyes on an object at least 20 feet away. Focusing on the distant object for just 10 seconds relieves eyestrain by allowing the eye muscles used in focusing on the screen time to relax. Place an interesting poster 20 feet from the computer and remind your child to take a break and gaze at the poster. Teachers can turn the break into a game by challenging youngster to identify characters, shapes or colors in strategically placed posters.
Other Tips for Reducing Eyestrain or CVS
Parents and teachers are advised to provide children with ergonomic seating and proper posture while they are using computers and other digital devices.
- Place the computer screen so that it rests 15 degrees below eye level. For children this means tables and chairs at the appropriate height for the child. Trying to use a computer at the convenient level for adults can create eyestrain for children.
- The child's head should be balanced on the neck and should not be tilted either forward or backward to focus on the screen.
- Elbows should form a 90-degree angle and the hands should be level with the forearms on the table.
- Feet should be flat on the floor, or on a footrest, so that the knees form a 90-degree angle.
- Old monitors, or software, with distorted images or colors, should not be used.
Gary Heiting, OD, senior editor of AllAboutVision.com recommends having your child's vision tested at least once a year and observing for any signs of vision problems throughout the year. Some signs that your child may be having vision difficulties include:
- Red, tired eyes
- Eye rubbing
- Tilting the head or getting too close to the screen
- Avoiding reading or computer tasks
While computers are likely to become an important part of your child's education and can improve his academic achievement, they are not without risks. The eyestrain associated with reading from a digital screen is greater than the eyestrain experienced from reading from a book and should be taken seriously. Remember, CVS applies to all digital devices. Observe your child's use of all digital devices and insist on frequent breaks to prevent eyestrain and the potential need for eyeglasses or other corrective lenses in the future.