Impact of Computer Use
on Children's Vision
When first introduced, computers were almost exclusively used by
adults. Today, children increasingly use these devices both for education
and recreation. Millions of children use computers on a daily basis at
school and at home.
Children can experience many of the same symptoms related to computer use as
adults. Extensive viewing of the computer screen can lead to eye
discomfort, fatigue, blurred vision and headaches. However, some unique
aspects of how children use computers may make them more susceptible than adults
to the development of these problems
The potential impact of computer use on children's vision involves the
||Children often have a limited degree of
self-awareness. Many children keep performing an enjoyable task with
great concentration until near exhaustion (e.g., playing video games for
hours with little, if any, breaks). Prolonged activity without a
significant break can cause eye focusing (accommodative) problems and eye
Accommodative problems may occur as a result of the eyes' focusing system
"locking in" to a particular target and viewing distance.
In some cases, this may cause the eyes to be unable to smoothly and easily
focus on a particular object, even long after the original work is
Eye irritation may occur because of poor tearflow over the eye due to
reduced blinking. Blinking is often inhibited by concentration and
staring at a computer or video screen. Compounding this, computers
usually are located higher in the field of view than traditional
paperwork. This results in the upper eyelids being retracted to a
greater extent. Therefore, the eye tends to experience more than the
normal amount of tear evaporation resulting in dryness and irritation.
||Children are very adaptable. Although
there are many positive aspects to their adaptability, children frequently
ignore problems that would be addressed by adults. A child who is
viewing a computer screen with a large amount of glare often will not
think about changing the computer arrangement or the surroundings to
achieve more comfortable viewing. This can result in excessive eye
strain. Also, children often accept blurred vision caused by
nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism
because they think everyone sees the way they do. Uncorrected
farsightedness can cause eye strain, even when clear vision can be
||Children are no the same size as
adults. Since children are smaller, computers don't fit them
well. Most computer workstations are arranged fro adult use.
Therefore, a child using a computer on a typical office desk often must
look up further than an adult. Since the most efficient viewing
angle is slightly downward about 15 degrees, problems using the eyes
together can occur. In addition, children may have difficulty
reaching the keyboard or placing their feet on the floor, causing arm,
neck or back discomfort.
||Children often use computers in a home or
classroom with less than optimum lighting. The lighting level for
the proper use of a computer is about half as bright as that normally
found in a classroom. Increased light levels contribute to excessive
glare and problems associated with adjustments of the eye to different
levels of light.
Steps to Visually-Friendly Computer Use
Here are some things to consider for children using a computer:
Have the child's vision checked. This will make sure
that the child can see clearly and comfortably and can detect any hidden
conditions that may contribute to eye strain. When necessary,
glasses, contact lenses or vision therapy can provide clear, comfortable
vision, not jut for using the computer, but for all other aspects of daily
Strictly enforce the amount of time that a child can
continuously use the computer. A ten-minute break every hour will
minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation
caused by improper blinking.
Carefully check the height and arrangement of the
computer. The child's size should determine how the monitor and key
board are positioned. In many situations, the computer monitor will
be too high in the child's field of view, the chair too low and the desk
too high. A good solution to many of these problems is an adjustable
chair that can be raised for the child's comfort, since it is usually
difficult to lower the computer monitor. A foot stool may be
necessary to support the child's feet.
Carefully check the lighting for glare on the computer
screen. Windows or other light sources should not be directly
visible when sitting in front of the monitor. When this occurs, the
desk or computer may be turned to prevent glare on the screen.
Sometimes glare is less obvious. In this case, holding a small
mirror flat against the screen can be a useful way to look for light
sources that are reflecting off of the screen from above or behind.
If a light source can be seen in the mirror, the offending light should be
moved or blocked from hitting the screen with a cardboard hood (a baffle)
attached to the top of the monitor. In addition, the American
Optometric Association has evaluated and accepted a number of glare
screens that can be added to a computer to reduce glare. Look for
the AOA Seal of Acceptance when purchasing a glare reduction filter.
Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the
computer screen. Often this is very simple in the home. In
some cases, a smaller light can be substituted for the bright overhead
light or a dimmer switch can be installed to give flexible control of room
lighting. In other cases, a three-way bulb can be turned onto its
Children have different needs to comfortably use a
computer. A small amount of effort can help reinforce appropriate viewing
habits and assure comfortable and enjoyable computer use.
- Information provided by the American Optometric Association
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