Computers, smartphones, tablets and other digital devices have the potential to enrich our lives. Kids who are growing up in this digital age are able to take full advantage of these tools to communicate, learn, collaborate, create, and dream. Unfortunately, all good things can also come with risks. It turns out that looking a digital device display screens for hours on end can cause both temporary and long-term eye problems. The term used to describe these problems is computer vision syndrome. Now you are wondering. Does your child have computer vision syndrome? Here is some useful information in that regard.
The short version is this. Computer vision syndrome is a cluster of problems related to vision. They are caused by using cell phones, e-readers, tablets, and computers for long periods of time day after day. Individuals will notice trouble with their vision, discomfort of their eyes, and headaches. The severity and frequency of these symptoms increase with the hours each day spent looking at digital device screens and the number of days, weeks, months, and years this behavior is repeated.
This is an increasingly frequent problem for which the American Optometric Association suggests computer and digital device users follow the “20-20-20” rule. The rule is simple. Every twenty minutes, at least, look away from the computer, tablet, or smartphone. Look at something at least twenty feet away and look at it for at least twenty seconds.
Simple instances of computer vision syndrome are simply eye strain from long-term digital device use. The “20-20-20” approach gets the user to focus at a longer distance, rest their eyes from reading, playing a video game, or working on homework. It may well cause the person to blink and lubricate their eyes, which does not happen when we stare at the computer screen. So, this useful routine may be helpful for many digital device users. But, what if there is more of a problem?
Not everyone has perfect vision to begin with. Minor astigmatism or farsightedness may not be noticed by your child because he or she does not know that their vision could be different or better. When the person watching the digital device screen cannot focus well it causes eye strain, headaches, learning problems, and more. Does your child have computer vision syndrome? The odds are worse if your boy or girl does not see well. A simple visit to the optometrist will resolve the issue of baseline vision.
Children may not feel well but often do not know how to describe what is wrong or even think to describe their symptoms. There is nothing wrong with simply asking your child if their head aches or if their eyes hurt or “feel tired” after doing schoolwork or playing games on their tablet.
One thing that you may notice is that your child does not sleep well. Sleep disorders are part of a more severe computer vision syndrome and are caused by blue light exposure from digital devices. As part of an evaluation for this problem, consider the blue light exposure from excessive digital device use and look into protective eyewear that simply blocks the blue light and can alleviate the problem.
One of the most worrying research findings is that children who are addicted to digital devices have measurable changes in their brains. Not only do these kids not develop the social and motor skills that other kids do but the areas in the brain responsible for these functions shrink.
If you wonder if your child has computer vision syndrome, institute the “20-20-20” rule right away and look into protective eyewear and a good eye exam by your optometrist.