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Children and Computer Vision Syndrome

The use of computers, tablets and other digital devices has become so commonplace in the daily lives of children that a report by The Vision Council in 2015 showed that close to 25% of children spend more than 3 hours a day using some sort of digital device. These numbers are only expected to grow. As these devices are becoming integrated into schools and becoming more common for use at a younger age, many experts and parents are wondering how the use of these devices can affect children’s eyes in the short and long term.

Computer Vision Syndrome (aka Digital Eye Strain)

Just like adults, children are susceptible to computer vision syndrome (CVS), also called digital eye strain, after extended use of computers or digital devices. Symptoms of CVS include eye fatigue and eye strain, dry eyes, headaches, blurred vision, and neck and shoulder pain.

Staring at a computer screen is a stress for the eyes, particularly for children whose eyes and visual system are less developed. This is because the computer-generated, pixelated images which appear on the screen are not what our eyes are accustomed to and therefore can cause the eye to strain after extended viewing. Some children find it uncomfortable to view screens for long periods because they simply don’t have the focusing power to spend extended amounts of time looking at these pixelated images.

Children don’t always have the self control to limit computer use or the awareness to know when they are experiencing eye fatigue or other symptoms of CVS. Because of this, they are more likely to overuse digital devices which can make symptoms worse.

Screen Use and Myopia

Myopia or nearsightedness is a growing concern as studies show the incidences of the condition are growing exponentially. In the past it was thought that myopia was primarily genetic, however recent research indicates a correlation between environmental factors and the growing exposure to and use of digital devices, particularly in children. As children increase their computer use and time spent on screen, the likelihood of developing myopia seems to also be increasing. According to a study done at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry which researched the incidence of myopia in 253 children between 6 years old and 10 years old showed a link with the amount of time spent on a computer.

The Effects of Blue Light

Blue light or high-energy visible (HEV) light is emitted from digital devices and is causing greater and greater concerns about long term exposure. It is already known that blue light can affect sleep and concentration but studies are also indicating that it can cause long term retinal damage, particularly in kids whose young eye have more sensitivity to environmental influences.

How to Protect Your Children from CVS

With the increasing use of and dependence upon digital devices it is important to teach your children good habits to protect their eyes while they are young. Understanding the risks and dangers of prolonged screen time should be taught at an early age. Here are some tips for safe computer and digital device use to reduce digital eye strain and prevent the negative effects it can have on your children’s eyes and vision.

  1. Limit Screen Time: When possible limit screen time to one or two hours a day, particularly for little children who don’t require computers for school work.
  2. Optimize Your Children’s Work Station: Ensure that children are positioned properly and that lighting is appropriate so that they do not have to bend or stretch in unnatural ways to see the screen adequately. The monitor should be slightly below the child’s eye line and about 18 – 28 inches away. The chair should also be adjusted so that the child’s arms comfortably rest on the desk and his or her feet touch the floor (when possible).
  3. Have Regular Eye Exams: Monitor your child’s eyesight, particularly an assessment of their near vision skills.
  4. Follow the 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away.
  5. Get in the Habit of Stretching: At regular intervals stretch the back, arms, shoulders and neck to relieve tension and reduce strain or soreness.
  6. Consider Computer Glasses: Computer glasses are made to help the eyes focus more easily on the computer screen. If your child already wears prescription eyewear, prescription computer glasses are available as well.
  7. Anti-glare: Anti-glare screens or coatings on eyeglasses can reduce glare and eye strain.
  8. Look for signs of eye or vision problems such as blurred vision or eye rubbing, redness or a stiff neck. If you notice any lasting vision problems see your eye doctor for an examination.

To Our Valued Patients:

As an essential business, Kennedy Vision Health Center remains committed to patient and employee safety as we navigate through the current healthcare crisis. We are going to see patients again beginning May 4th.  We care deeply about patient health and have implemented several infection prevention measures to ensure the highest level of safety when you visit our clinic.  Following guidance from  the MN Dept. of Labor, MN Dept. of Health, CDC, and the American Optometric Association we are keeping a very controlled and safe environment for our patients and employees.

For patients being seen in our clinic, the CDC is now recommending that all staff, patients and visitors cover their faces in health care facilities. To help reduce the spread of COVID-19, we are requiring patients to bring and wear a face covering (such as protective mask or cloth covering) to any upcoming appointments.

Masks or cloth coverings must be worn over your mouth and nose for the duration of your appointment. Members of your care team will also wear masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. If you do not have access to a face covering, the CDC website has guidelines for making no-sew, cloth face coverings. You can also use a scarf or bandana. Additionally, masks can be purchased from many local and online retailers.

We are requiring an appointment to enter the office.  Appointments will be made for eye exams, glasses, and contact lens pickups.  If you do not have an appointment please call before entering so we can make sure we do not have too many people in the office.  Once entering please use the hand sanitizer that is provided in the foyer and wait to approach the front desk until the receptionist is ready.  All people entering the building must have their temperature checked.  If your temperature is above 100.4, it will be rechecked by a different device, and if still high you will need to reschedule.

We continue to ask that you do not bring any unnecessary people with you to your appointment, with the exception of a guardian with a child or assistance with mobility.  Also, please follow the 6 feet social distancing guidelines as much as possible throughout the office.

Rest assured that every surface you come into contact with has been sanitized prior to the arrival of each and every patient entering our practice, and it will be cleaned again as you exit each area. The team will be frequently washing their hands between interactions as per our usual protocol, and you’ll also see hand sanitizer throughout the practice for your use, as well.

If you’re  wanting to purchase glasses, there is a similar protocol in place to ensure a safe interaction with cleaning of frames and minimal contact with our optical team. Please follow their direction if eyewear is needed.

Kennedy Vision Health Center is also offering telemedicine visits which can be completed from the comfort of your home. To schedule a telemedicine visit please contact our office at 763-545-8850 and one of our team members will be happy to schedule your visit.

If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to call us. On Monday May 4th we will begin regular office hours at both locations.

We appreciate your efforts to help protect yourself, our care teams and our entire community.