When pediatric ophthalmologists are consulted about the biggest issue that is facing our young people, invariably they say it’s the destruction of our children’s vision due to extensive computer usage. Gone are the days where computers are used only by adults and only in a work environment. Children’s vision is progressively more likely to develop myopia than in anytime in the past. Children’s vision preservation is paramount, and a good way to start is limiting their access to computers.
Children today have computer access at home and school, for educational and recreational pursuits. Children often ignore problems, and believe if they are having difficulty seeing that it is not a cause for concern. Computer vision syndrome is a real medical issue. It can cause headache, dry eye, eye discomfort, fatigue and blurred vision. For children, especially, computer vision syndrome can adversely affect their school performance. Children’s vision is valuable, and for the sake of future success in school, and life, it must be protected.
94% of American families have computers with Internet capabilities. It would be naive for parents or other caregivers to believe that all of the average 7 hours children between the ages 8 and 18 spend on the computer relates to purely educational websites. Games and social sites are unquestionably a large part of the 7 daily hours, in addition to time spent on cell phones and tablets. However, these days computers can be seen as necessary evils.
Minimize the Problems
But one cannot minimize the inherent problems in our children’s usage of this particular piece of technology. Part of the issue is that computers, primarily made for adults, do not fit the user. Children are smaller than adults and should therefore use different computer practices. A computer monitor should be positioned between 20-26 inches from the child. An adjustable chair must be used to make sure his feet can comfortably touch the floor in order to avoid arm, neck and back problems.
Often the visual demands of a task exceed the visual abilities of an individual to perform the task. Children’s vision has to mature along with the child. You cannot expect a child to be capable of advanced tasks that require him to pay attention to more than one thing at a time.
What can you, as a parent, do to protect your children’s vision? First of all, you should limit their usage of computer primarily for school, with occasional recreational use. If a child is showing signs of dry eyes, rubbing their eyes or squinting, then perhaps lubricating eye drops or special computer glasses may alleviate the problem temporarily. Set a rule that for every hour on the computer, they must take a 20 minute break and do something outside that requires physical activity. Reduce the amount of light in the room where the computer is, by using shades, curtains and screen covers. This will minimize the glare on the screen while it is being used.
The bottom line when it comes to children’s vision and computer use is that adults must monitor children’s computer use, as it is simply not a concern of the children involved.
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