These days when we think of children and computers, we tend to focus on the question of their online safety – of protecting children from predators and access to inappropriate websites. One thing which we seem to neglect is the question of eye health.
More than ever before, children today are increasingly reliant on screen technology both for their education and leisure time activities.
With millions of children worldwide now using computer technology on a daily basis, it is wise to learn a little more about the potential impacts on children’s short-term and long-term eye health and ensure children practice some good basic habits.
Always consult a qualified eye professional
Whilst it is wise to understand the potential problems of eye health when using computers and phones and to teach good habits to children early, bear in mind that this should never replace a routine of regular check-ups and testing by a qualified optician.
Many good family eye doctors are available, and Medical Optometry America recommends eye examinations by a qualified professional rather than basic “generic” vision tests.
Common ailments associated with computer screen use
The most common eye complaints related to prolonged use of computer screens and mobile phones are the short-term problems of dry eyes and eye irritation. This is common to both adults and children alike, and a few simple precautions can greatly reduce these symptoms.
Blinking is a reflex action that permits the eye to lubricate and clean itself with naturally produced tears. When focusing at close range on a screen or mobile phone, the eye’s natural blink rate drops greatly – by as much as sixty percent – which restricts the natural cleaning of dust and foreign objects. This quickly leads to eye irritation and redness.
Remember that children have limited self-awareness
Children by nature tend to be adaptable and tolerant of less than ideal conditions. This can be a disadvantage when considering their use of screen technology. It is likely a child will tolerate poorer conditions that an adult will not, such as poor lighting and seating positions.
When engaged in an enjoyable activity such as a computer game, a young person can become absorbed for long periods of time, often to the point of exhaustion. The unbroken focus and concentration increase the chance of eye strain and fatigue.
Ensure regular breaks when viewing computer and phone screens
Remember to keep the solution simple. Enforcing a rule of taking a short break every ten minutes and looking away from the screen and around the room helps the eye re-focus and return to a natural blink rate.
Avoid excessive glare and bad lighting
Intense light and glare can greatly increase eye strain. Direct light from windows or other sources can create glare on the screen and dazzle the user. To avoid this, consider turning desks so that computer screens face away from the window or light source.
A simple reminder for children is that the screen brightness should be less than the room brightness.
Check the seating position at the computer
Quite often, children will use a shared computer with adults. A computer screen set at a suitable level for an adult user may force a child to look upward at an angle to view the screen display. This not only affects a child’s vision but can cause back and neck discomfort.
As a basic rule of thumb, set the computer screen at or slightly below the child’s eye level.
Good habits begin at home
Reinforcing some fundamentals early and working in conjunction with a qualified eye doctor will ensure the best protection for the most relied upon sense in the human body – eyesight.