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Impact of Computer Use on Children's Vision

Once relegated to the adult population, excessive computer usage has become an increasingly common problem among children. Digital textbooks are becoming the norm, homework is assigned online, in-class school work is completed on tablets or in the computer lab. Screen time doesn’t stop once the bell rings. Regardless of the homework load, there are online games to be played, Facebook statuses to update, Snaps and Tweets and so many other digital demands.

Computer Conundrums

Extensive computer usage can lead to a host of problems.

These issues may be caused or exacerbated by poor lighting, a glare, or even the computer being set at the wrong height for the user. These issues commonly plague adults guilty of excessive screen time. What is more disconcerting is that children are far more susceptible to suffering from these symptoms.

The Science Behind the Pain

When the brain is locked in concentration, the eyes forget to blink. With computers causing children to look upward, as opposed to down at a paper, their upper eyelids are retracted farther than normal. The decrease in blinking combined with an increase in tear evaporation results in dry, irritated eyes.

Disadvantages of Adaptability

Children tend to be so adaptable to adverse situations, which serves them well and makes them quite resilient to early trauma. However, in the realm of computer usage, this causes more harm than good.

When a child is focused on homework or a game, he or she will often ignore the body’s warnings that something is wrong. For example, a child is not likely to notice, much less fix, a glare by changing the lighting or adjusting the viewing height of the screen. A child may not even be aware that he or she is suffering from blurry vision as that child is prone to assume that everyone else sees the world the same way.

Computer Considerations

1. Schedule an eye examination to ensure that your child can see clearly and comfortably.

2. Limit screen time; a ten-minute break every hour will help to reduce eyestrain.

3. Adjust the height and viewing level of the screen. The desk and chair must be considered when ensuring a proper fit. Many desks are too high and chairs too low. Some children may need a small stool to support their feet.

4. Eliminate the glare from nearby windows or overhead lights. The optimal lighting level for computer use is about half that of a normal classroom setting.

5. Help your child to be aware of the symptoms, and let them take an active role in preventing them.

Make sure that your child can see clearly and comfortably. For regular computer users, at least an annual eye examination is required. When necessary, refractive correction and / or orthoptic exercises (eg. in convergence insufficiency), should be provided.

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