Although computer use does improve children’s readiness for school, too much is most definitely a problem. There are a myriad of reasons why this is the case, but today we are going to look at just one – vision problems. By the age of 2, the average child has at least one digital device and spends about 30 hours per week looking at the screen, and the average 13-year-old owns three digital devices and gets about 70 hours of screen time per week.
These digital devices emit significant amounts of blue light, or “high energy visible light,” which many eye care practitioners believe increases the risk of macular degeneration and progressive myopia. After hours of staring at computer screens and smartphones, (and the eyes working overtime to process that blue light) children can begin to experience eye strain and fatigue. Digital eye strain symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes and neck pain.
Since computers, smartphones, e-readers, and video games are here to stay, it can begin to feel like a losing battle. But there are things that parents can do to reduce the risk of the computer-related vision problems.
- Teach your child proper poster at the computer: avoid slumping over, don’t tuck legs under the chair, position screen where head is not bent forward.
- Glasses: If your child already wears prescription eyeglasses, look into lenses that are specially treated to block the harmful HEV rays. You can also purchase non-prescription glasses with an anti-reflective coating to block the HEV rays.
- Teach your child the 20-20-10 Rule: Every 20 minutes take your eyes off the computer and look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 10 seconds.
- Yearly eye exams: Summer is a great time to schedule your child’s yearly eye exam and catch any potential problems early.
Remember, computers should be a supplement to education, not a replacement. And as always, parents should be near-by as children are on computers or hand-held devices.