Both parents and adults have electronic devices without us throughout our day, from smartphones to PCs, tablets to GPS screens, and even our televisions. Our children are being educated and entertained by these devices more than any other generation before them. As adults should be careful with the affect these devices have on our vision, we should be also concerned with our children’s vision as well.
In fact, medicine now formally recognizes the condition affecting our eyes with so much screen time, calling it ‘computer vision syndrome’ (CVS). This condition can affect people of any age that are not using electronic devices properly.
The symptoms of CVS are headaches, blurred vision, and dry, irritated eyes. While it might seem that bring screens closer to our eyes would help us to see them better, having screens to close to our eyes actually makes focusing on these screen more difficult.
CVS can be avoided both in children and adults by using a ‘20-20-20’ rule of usage: every 20 minutes, takes a break from looking at the screen for at least 20 seconds, focusing on objects that are more than 20 feet away. Pediatricians advise that children over the age of 2 not have more than 2 hours of screen time per day, and children under the age of 2 not have any screen time at all.
Also, studies show that children who play outside for 2 hours per day have significantly lower rates of nearsightedness. This means that scheduling outside play is not only good for their muscles, but also their vision!
Everyone with an electronic device should keep the device at a safe distance for their vision. Experts estimate that holding the device should be held at a distance equal to the distance between your elbow and your knuckles. If you have to repeatedly remind your child to hold devices farther from their eyes, consider having his vision tested, as this may be a sign of farsightedness.
Also, once your children are old enough to use PCs for homework, give your child a space for computer usage that’s tailored to her size – adult-sized desks and chairs can be too large for children, causing them to strain to see the screen in unhealthy positions for their eyes, neck and shoulders.
If you or your children have been fitted with eyeglasses, make sure you are all using them when you are looking at electronic media. The lenses are engineered to reduce the strain of focusing on your eyes – it’s especially important to wear glasses when you or your child is using the computer, tablet or smartphone.
In addition, use a larger size font as much as possible. Whenever you can enlarge the font on a site, do so, and teach your kids to do this as well. This will help all of you keep the device a healthy distance from your eyes.
Make sure all members of the family see an eye doctor twice per year, who can screen for not only vision problems, but also can check the health of the eyeball overall. Make sure your eye professional knows how much time each family member spends in front of screens.