It is common knowledge that many people – adults, teenagers and some children included – simply cannot go through daily life without spending a lot of time using devices such as cell phones, tablets, laptops and computers.
Although these devices have become a crucial part of modern society and the way we communicate, prolonged and overuse of these devices can cause serious strain on the health of your eyes, especially those of teenagers and children. In this month’s newsletter we’ll explore this subject further.
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Computer Vision Syndrome: children and teens
Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is defined as eye, vision and body problems associated with excessive computer use. Most parents are rightly concerned about the types of people or subject matter their children and teenagers might encounter online, but few of them know about the effects of heavy computer usage on the visual system.
Young vision systems under stress
Adults, children and teenagers alike can all experience eyestrain from trying to focus on a computer screen for several hours a day. Children and teenagers, however, are still developing their visual systems, making them more vulnerable to long-term damage than adults.
Over their lifetimes, children will be using computers and other digital devices much more than the typical adult. The hours of computer use by children and teenagers that have never known a world without them will add up to years by the time they reach the age of their grandparents. And this doesn’t even count time spent playing video games.
Recent research shows that in some areas of the world, where high academic performance and long hours at the computer are strongly encouraged, children will usually have difficulty focusing on distance (short-sightedness).
When children are concentrating on work or a video game using a computer, the rate of blinking drops; straight-ahead gaze decreases the rate of tear production as well. This results in symptoms of dry eye, including redness, burning, grittiness and reflex tearing from irritation.
What needs to happen?
Because they are experiencing rapid growth and changing bodies, young people need eye examinations more frequently than most healthy adults. Our optometrists recommend yearly check-ups, but they should be seen earlier if the child displays any symptoms or signs of visual distress.
Blurry vision can contribute to visual stress – sometimes, a prescription for low-power reading lenses can reduce near-vision stress and help prevent unwanted adaptations to the visual system. Even when a vision problem is present and corrected with spectacles or contact lenses, it may be necessary to use a different type of lens for time spent on the computer. Another issue is how the eyes work together as a team in focusing, tracking, and aiming. A thorough vision exam should include testing for these issues.
Contact De Jongh Optometry for an appointment today.
Should you worry about how much time your child spends in front of the computer every day?
Sitting for hours in front of a computer screen may strain a child’s eyes because the computer forces the child’s vision system to focus a lot more than any other task. This can put children at an even greater risk than adults for developing symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
We live in the age of computers, tablets and cell phones and a “near-point world,” and parents need to be aware of the vision problems associated with computer work. Computer use demands fine motor skills from young eyes that are not completely developed. Only when the visual system matures is a child better able to handle the strain of a computer on that system.
Feel free to contact De Jongh Optometry at any time if you’re unsure about the effects of computers on your child’s eyes – our comprehensive eye exams will give you the peace of mind needed and help to prevent damage.
Tips to reduce the risk of computer vision syndrome in children
- Have your child’s vision checked. Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam.
- Limit the amount of time your child spends at the computer without a break. Encourage kids to take 20-second breaks from the computer every 20 minutes to minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation.
- For young and small children, make sure the computer workstation is adjusted to their body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 45 to 70 cm. viewing the computer screen closer than 45 cm can strain the eyes.
- Check the lighting. To reduce glare, windows and other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen.
Computer use and physical development in children
In addition to the risk of computer vision syndrome, there is concern that excessive computer use during childhood may have adverse effects on a child’s physical development. Guidelines:
- Encourage a mix of tasks throughout the day. Children should take frequent breaks from computer use and to take part in a variety of activities that involve physical movement. Performing tasks using electronic media (computer use, watching TV, texting, etc.) should be limited to less than two hours per day.
- Workstations should be designed to suit the child’s size. Among other suggestions:
- feet should be able to rest comfortably on the floor
- desk height should be at elbow height
- the top of the computer screen should be at eye level
- the screen should be positioned and angled to avoid glare
- Teach your child to respond appropriately to discomfort during computer use, including taking more frequent breaks and, if symptoms persist, seeking advice from our eye care team at De Jongh Optometry.
New technology at De Jongh Optometry: Eye Tracking Evaluation
A critical visual skill is eye tracking. This is the ability of the eyes to move along a printed line or follow a moving object. To assess eye tracking thoroughly can be difficult, but at De Jongh Optometry we now have a powerful new tool to do this!
The eye tracker software uses infra-red cameras which detects the position of the eyes. Reading material is presented and the programme records the movement of the eyes. The results can be analysed to determine the child’s visual tracking abilities. From the results, we can determine the best therapy going forward – this may be visual therapy alone or vision therapy and spectacles.
Products: for that extra bit of comfort in a digital world
LCD and LED computer and television screens, smartphones, tablets and GPS devices all emit blue light. Although blue light in itself is a natural phenomenon – it is present in daylight and helps us to stay awake – over exposure can cause eye strain, eye fatigue and even sleeplessness.
Hoya BlueControl lens coating helps neutralise the blue light emitted by LCD and LED screens, preventing eye fatigue and eye strain and even sleeplessness. The coating offers more comfortable and relaxed vision when using every-day digital devices.
Ensure that your child or teen’s vision is in top shape during the winter by making an appointment at De Jongh Optometrists – our friendly and professional team will ensure that your eyes are very well cared for!