Explainers

Screens vs. Eyes

April 18th, 2019

Children are spending a lot of time in front of a digital screen these days. On average: seven hours a day among kids age 8 to 18. Screen time recommendations vary among health advocates, but no one suggests staring at a screen for nearly a full workday is good for anyone, let alone nine-year-olds.

What do we know about the effects of gazing at the glow? How can we mitigate the risks?

One recent study found that school children who use computers or video games for seven or more hours a week tripled their risk for eye problems like nearsightedness or myopia. These are long-term problems that typically can’t be reversed.

According to the American Optometric Association as much as 90 percent of people who work in front of a computer on a daily basis report a number of eye and vision problems including eye strain, eye pain and other types of ocular discomfort as well as stress and strain. It is referred to as “computer vision syndrome.” Children can suffer from it too.

The Impact of Screen Time on Eyes

The Vision Council reports that more than half (59 percent) of adults who said they used digital devices more than two hours a day experienced a number of symptoms of digital eye strain and eyesight problems including

  • Shoulder and neck pain (35 percent)
  • Eye strain (32.4 percent)
  • Blurred vision (27.9 percent)
  • Headaches (27.7 percent)
  • Dry eyes (27.2 percent)

What’s more, 70 percent of adults in the U.S. say that their children spend more than two hours in front of a screen each day. The troubling part is that almost a quarter of those parents are not concerned about the impact this could have on their child’s developing eyes.

Parents report that their children experience many of the same symptoms as adults after spending two or more hours online or on a digital device:

  • Headache
  • Shoulder and neck pain
  • Eye strain
  • Irritated eyes
  • Dry eyes

They also report some other troubling symptoms, including a reduced attention span, irritability and poor behavior.

How to Protect Your Children’s Eyes

There are steps parents can take to protect their children’s eyes and health while on the internet or on digital devices.

  • Limit screen time – Two hours of screen time a day is recommended for children older than 5 while younger children (2 to 5) should only get one hour a day. It is also best to break it up, so they aren’t sitting in front of the screen for two hours straight.
  • Encourage proper lighting – Choose softer lighting and avoid bright, harsh lights, especially overhead fluorescent lighting.
  • Use computer glasses – Computer glasses are specially tinted to reduce or block the blue light that is emitted by device screens. These are not sunglasses but are precision tinted lenses made specifically for dealing with light issues.
  • Enforce the 20/20/20 rule – This is simple and effective. Every 20 minutes you are on a computer stop and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps reduce eye strain and fatigue.
  • Minimize glare – An anti-glare screen over your monitor can help to block some of the glare coming from the screen. If you wear prescription glasses make sure they have AR coating.
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