Technology has become an even bigger part of life than it was even just a few years ago. Due to the fact that computers, cell phones, tablets, and even video games are such staples in homes and even schools these days, it’s no wonder that many parents don’t realize just how much time their children are spending on electronic devices.
According to a survey conducted by the American Optometric Association, electronic devices are used for at least three hours a day by 83 percent of kids between 10 and 17 years old. Considering kids in that age bracket are in school for eight hours a day and should be sleeping for eight hours a night, that’s an astounding amount of time between school and sleep that they are using some type of electronic device.
It’s even more astounding that so many parents are unaware of how much time their kids are spending on computers and tablets, cell phones and video games, but according to another survey conducted by the American Optometric Association, only 40 percent of parents are aware that their kids are using electronic devices for at least three hours a day.
These numbers have many eye doctors concerned because it means that it’s much easier for parents to miss any warning signs that their kids may be experiencing vision problems, like Computer Vision Syndrome from using those digital devices so often.
Vision Problems Associated with Technology Use
Kids who are excessively using electronic devices can begin to experience what is known as digital eye strain. It’s a condition that is caused by using electronic devices for extended periods of time. While the condition is only temporary, kids may begin to experience a burning sensation in their eyes and their eyes may get itchy or become tired. They may also start getting headaches, feeling fatigued, become unable to focus and have blurry vision.
While adults can experience these symptoms too, it’s different for kids. Adults are very self-aware, so if you had spent hours working on something on the computer and you began to feel tired or uncomfortable, you would likely stop what you were doing and take a break or go to bed.
Kids aren’t like that. They don’t have that kind of self-awareness and they will sit and play a game or do anything else that they’re having fun doing without taking breaks until they literally drop from exhaustion. This kind of behavior – using technology for long periods of time without taking breaks and giving the eyes a chance to rest can actually cause problems with their eyes’ ability to focus on objects.
Unlike adults who know that there is some kind of problem when their eyes get blurry or they’re unable to focus, kids don’t usually make that kind of connection. They don’t realize that there is a problem and instead they just learn to work around or with that problem as if it was normal.
These are all reasons why it’s important that parents become more aware of the time their kids are spending using electronic devices. Parents will be able to tell that there is a problem when they notice their kid has started to squint a lot or likes leaning closer to the computer because it’s easier for them to see. Parents can also begin to limit some of that time if they are truly aware of the hours spent on technology use.
Protecting the Eyes from Digital Strain
If kids are going to be using electronic devices for extended periods of time, they can avoid straining their eyes by following a few recommendations.
First off, for every 10 minutes or so of work, kids should take a 10 second break from what they’re doing and look at something 10 feet away. This is called the 10-10-10 Rule and it will allow the eyes to relax and reduce the amount of strain they feel.
Parents should also reduce the glare on the computer screen for their kids by making sure the computer does not face a window and that there are no lamps or overhead lighting reflecting on the screen. In addition, the brightness of the computer screen should be equal to that of the brightness in the room.
Increasing the font size of the text on the screen will make reading much easier and will reduce eye strain. This is important because some fonts are extremely small and when trying to read a lot of text at once, that can be hard on the eyes, so making the font bigger will make it easier on the eyes.
Parents should also remind their children to blink a lot. Blinking will give the eyes a break, allow them to stay moistened, and will reduce the strain they are put under.
Eye doctors are also concerned about the effects that the bluish light that is emitted from computers and other electronic devices will have on the eyes. It can cause additional strain and discomfort and could eventually lead to eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration.
Keep the Eyes Healthy
Regular eye exams are an important part of keeping the eyes healthy. Children should have an exam done around 6 months old and again before they are three years old. After that, children should receive an eye exam every one to two years, depending on the advice given by their eye doctor.
Parents should also make sure to include eye healthy food in their children’s diets. While it can be difficult to get kids to eat fruits and vegetables, it’s important to make sure they eat plenty of them, not only for the sake of keeping their eyes healthy and strong, but because it’s beneficial for the rest of their body too. In addition or even as an alternative, giving kids vitamin supplements that contain the 17 essential vitamins and minerals for good eye health is an option.