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Computer Vision Syndrome Affecting Kids

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Wednesday, September 19th, 2007 Emily Halevy | CWK Producer

“Anytime you work at one distance for long periods of time, like computers or video games, you tend to get fatigued.  Eyes weren’t meant to lock in on any one thing for hours at a time.”

– Dr. Kelly Spetalnick, optometrist

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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids today spend an average of six and a half hours a day in front of computers, video screens and/or television. Remember that old warning from your mom and dad that too much television can damage your eyes? It turns out that it may be true in ways we never realized.

Hayden and Griffin would sit and play on the computer for hours if they could, but their mom keeps a close watch.

“We never let them be on [the computer] as long as they want to.  We’ve always monitored the amount of time they are on it,” says their mother, Susie Copeland.

The problem is not just the amount of time in front of a screen, it’s also the body’s position and distance from the monitor. The American Optometric Association estimates that 50 percent of children today spend four or more hours in front of a computer screen. As a result, more kids are now suffering from a condition once reserved for adults in the workplace: Computer Vision Syndrome, or CVS.

“Anytime you work at one distance for long periods of time, like computers or video games, you tend to get fatigued. Eyes weren’t meant to lock in on any one thing for hours at a time,” says Dr. Kelly Spetalnick, optometrist.

In addition to eye fatigue, CVS can cause headaches and eye strain. Experts say that CVS can also increase the risk of a child becoming nearsighted, where things at a distance are blurry.

“There seems to be a trend more toward nearsightedness than used to be as our society becomes a closer- reading society.  We’re not out working in the fields, we’re writing and we’re in school and we’re on computers and video screens,” says Spetalnick.

She says there are some ways to help offset CVS.  One, make sure there is approximately two feet between the monitor and the eyes.  Two, reduce the glare off the monitor by turning down the lights in the room. Three, take frequent breaks.  

Children who spend a lot of time in front of the computer screen or playing video games put more than their eyes at risk. Those kids can also put a strain on their backs and necks, and on their hands and wrists due to repetitive motions.

“Look out a window, take a break, just get up and walk around,” says Spetalnick.

What We Need To Know

  • Symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) include:  (American Optometric Association, AOA)
    • Eyestrain (non-specific ocular discomfort), fatigue, headache, blurred vision (near and/or far distance) dry and/or irritated eyes, neck and/or backaches, and diplopia (double vision)
  • Parents should be aware that an adult computer workstation may not be suited to a child, who may have to look up at a higher angle than an adult. Parents should invest in a chair that can be adjusted for the child’s height.
  • The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is between 18 and 28 inches. (National Institutes of Health, NIH)
  • Parents can check for sources of glare by sitting in front of the computer. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor.  (NIH)
  • Parents should take their children for an annual eye exam and discuss computer use with their eye doctor. (NIH)

Resources

  • American Optometric Association (AOA)
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)

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