Our children are spending a lot of time with screens these days: computers, phones, ipads. Experts suggest that spending too much time looking at screens can lead children to develop computer vision syndrome and eye problems related to overexposure to harmful blue light. What can we do to prevent this?

Here are some tips from the American Optometric Association on how to protect your child from computer screen related eye damage:

1. Have your child’s vision checked. Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam, including near-point (computer and reading) and distance testing. Tell your eye doctor if your child has shown any signs of eye or vision problems, such as squinting, frequent eye rubbing, red eyes, head turns and other unusual postures, or if he or she complains of blurred vision or eye fatigue when reading or using a computer. Avoidance of computer work may also indicate vision problems.

2. Limit the amount of time your child spends at the computer without a break. Every 20 minutes your child should take his eyes off the computer and look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 10 seconds to minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation.
This simple exercise relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and may help reduce eye strain and eye fatigue.

3. Check the ergonomics of the workstation. For young and small children, make sure the computer workstation is adjusted to their body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18 to 28 inches. Viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches can strain the eyes.

4. Check the lighting. Carefully check the lighting for glare on the computer screen. Windows or other light sources could create glare on the screen. When this occurs, the desk or the computer screen should be turned to another direction. You may need to reduce the amount of lighting in the room. In some cases, a dimmer light is preferable to the bright overhead light.

Reducing The Risks Of Blue Light Exposure

All digital devices with viewing screens emit significant amounts of blue light (also called “high-energy visible light” or “HEV light”) which experts believe might increase a child’s risk of eye issues (including macular degeneration) later in life. If your child spends a great deal of time in front of screens you should consider getting a blue light filter for the computer screen or glasses especially designed to reduce blue light exposure.

In addition, studies show that exposure to blue light a couple of hours before bedtime actually suppresses melatonin and delays deep REM sleep significantly. So making sure that your children cut back on tech use at night will help them get better sleep and be in a better frame of mind for school the next day.
For more information you can check out this article on Children and Computer Vision Syndrome at allaboutvision.com here.