How to protect young children against computer vision syndrome - part 2

Like adults, children are prone to computer vision syndrome, a medical condition in which digital strain can cause pain in the eyes, neck and shoulders.

Myupchar November 13, 2019 12:36:44 IST
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How to protect young children against computer vision syndrome - part 2
  • According to the American Optometric Association, children may be especially vulnerable to computer-related vision problems

  • Limit your child's screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don't require computers for schoolwork

  • Ask your child to stretch his/her back, arms, shoulders and neck at regular intervals to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness

Blue light from computer, laptop and phone screens can have a negative effect on vision. Now, medical practitioners suggest these effects might be worse for very young children.

Children are just as prone — if not more prone — to computer vision syndrome, a medical condition in which digital strain can cause pain in the eyes, neck and even shoulders.

How to protect young children against computer vision syndrome  part 2

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

Thankfully, there are many things parents can do to prevent this condition in children.

Causes of computer vision syndrome in children

According to the American Optometric Association, children may be especially vulnerable to computer-related vision problems. The reasons for this are manifold. 

First, computer workstations are often arranged for adult use. The viewing angle is often around 15 degrees - this can increase the risk of children sitting too close to the screen or adopting unusual postures that can lead to eyestrain and neck, shoulder and back pain.

Second, children tend to have low self-control, and once they start playing computer games, it can last for hours leading to progressive tension in the eye muscles.

Third, children often adapt to changes quickly and automatically. Ironically, good adaptation abilities can make it hard for children to realise when they have reduced or blurry vision - because they think it is normal to see by squinting their eyes.

Fourth, doctors have also reported cases where children fear that their parents will forbid them from playing computer games, so they don’t share their eye problems with the parents.

Fifth, children often work in poor lighting conditions because their mesopic vision (ability to see in low light) is better than that of adults. This can affect their vision in the long run.

What can parents do to prevent computer vision syndrome in their children?

In 2000, the Lucile Packard Foundation recommended putting a time limit on the use of home computers by children to avoid eye problems as well as promote outdoor activities. The foundation recommended:

  • Up to 27 minutes per day for children from 2-5 years
  • Up to 49 minutes per day for children aged 6-11
  • Up to 63 minutes a day for 12-17-year-olds 

In addition to an age-appropriate time limit, here are some steps that parents can take to prevent computer vision syndrome in their children as well as to recognise early signs:

  • Get your child a comprehensive eye exam - including an assessment of his/her near-point (computer and reading) vision skills - before he/she starts school.
  • Limit your child’s screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don’t require computers for schoolwork.
  • Ensure that your child is seated properly in front of the screen and that there is adequate lighting in the room. The monitor should be slightly below the child’s eye line and about 18-28 inches away from his/her eyes.
  • Adjust the child’s chair so that his/her arms rest comfortably on the desk and his/her feet touch the floor. This helps to prevent neck, back and shoulder pain in children.
  • Regular eye checkups, particularly an assessment of their near vision skills, can help to identify a problem early.
  • Teach your child how to take eye breaks using the 20-20-20 rule: after 20 minutes of screen time, take at least a 20-second break to look at something around 20 feet away.
  • Ask your child to stretch his/her back, arms, shoulders and neck at regular intervals to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness.
  • If your child wears spectacles, then an anti-glare screen or coating on top of them can reduce glare and eye strain. Polarized glasses or photochromic lenses such as transitions lenses also protect from the sun’s rays when they are outdoors, as transition lenses can block roughly 90% or more of the sun's harmful blue light. 
  • If you notice that the child is rubbing his/her eyes a lot, or if his/her eyes are often red, or if he/she complains of a stiff neck, these could all be signs of computer vision syndrome. Seek medical advice as soon as possible.

This is the second article in a two-part series about computer vision syndrome in children. Read the first article here.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Itchy eyes: Causes, Treatment and Prevention.

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