Technology is surrounding us more and more every single day. Most kids received some type of technology gift for Christmas. I will go ahead and admit, my girls both got mini laptops for Christmas. Several kids got the new Kindle Fire, or an iPod touch, or even an iPad. Technology can rule your kid’s life if you do not set forth technology rules. It can also ruin your kid’s eye sight.
While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting screen time for children and adolescents to two hours per day, recent studies are finding that children ages 8-18 are spending more than 7.5 hours a day consuming electronic media, from computers and smartphones to e-readers and tablets. How will this increased use impact our tech-savvy children’s eyes?
Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome (CVS), is a term for any number of eye or vision- related problems that can occur from using a computer or digital device. Symptoms can include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry or irritated eyes, headaches and even neck and back pain. I know I can relate with several of these symptoms. My eyes can get so dry and I have to get up and leave the computer. Most of the time, I have to grab a wet washcloth in order to stop the burning. If this is happening to me, you know it can/will happen to your kids.
How can you prevent computer vision syndrome? VSP shares their tips.
Watch the time. The best way to avoid CVS is to take frequent breaks to refresh the eyes— follow the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, make sure your child takes a break to stare at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also make sure to limit device usage to around two hours a day. This can be a challenge, but the average usage is almost four times that! For children two and under, avoid digital devices all together.
Create a kid-size work space. When working at adult desks, children sometimes have to crane their necks, look up at the screen or sit uncomfortably to do work. Avoid this issue and set up a small desk with an adjustable chair that provides good back support.
Keep the proper working distance. The distance between your child’s eyes and a screen should be approximately the distance between his or her elbow and knuckle. If your child is leaning too close to the computer screen or holding reading material close to his or her face, it could signal an underlying vision problem.
Schedule regular eye exams. Children’s vision changes often and it’s important that they have the best vision possible when using digital devices to help avoid CVS. This starts with a comprehensive examination by an eye doctor, not just a school screening. Children should have their first eye exam at six months of age, then at three years, before starting school and every year after that.
Go outside. Playing is healthy for the body and mind. Research also shows that two hours of outdoor play each day can help prevent nearsightedness. Of course, sunglasses are non- negotiable. Children have larger pupils and are susceptible to more UV damage than adults.
Let’s band together and help avoid Computer Vision Syndrome. Remember there still is life outside of technology. Kids do not need technology 24/7!
Thanks to Nathan Bonilla-Warford, O.D., F.A.A.O. for providing these awesome tips. He practices at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Bonilla-Warford has lectured on visual care of children, the importance of vision in personal development, and options for controlling nearsightedness.