90 percent of school-age children have computer access at home or in school.
54 million children in the United States alone use a computer at home or in school.**
Many pediatric computer vision eye doctors believe that heavy computer use among children puts them at risk for early myopia. They point to several recent studies as evidence that computers can have a negative impact on a child's vision:
25 percent to 30 percent of computer-using children need corrective eyewear to work comfortably and safely at the computer at home or in school, says a study at the University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry.
The percentage of first-graders with myopia has increased from 12.1 percent to 20.4 percent since 1995, according to a study by the Department of Health in Taiwan.
A similar study in Singapore found that in three years the percentage of seven- to nine-year-olds with myopia had doubled, to 34 percent.
Sitting for hours in front of a computer screen stresses a child's eyes because the computer forces the child's vision system to focus and strain a lot more than any other task. Twenty years ago, most children played outside, and their distant vision was more important. Today, most children work at a computer either at home or school each day. Sitting in front of a computer and staring at a computer screen is causing vision problems that were not known years ago.
Should you worry about how much time your child spends in front of the computer every day?
Today it is a "near-point world," and parents need to be aware of the vision problems associated with computer work. Computer use demands fine motor skills from young eyes that are not well developed. Only when the visual system matures is a child better able to handle the stress of a computer on that system.
According to the American Optometric Association, the impact of computer use on children's vision involves these factors:
Children have a limited degree of self-awareness. They may perform a task on the computer for hours with few breaks. This prolonged activity can cause eye focusing and eye strain problems.
Children are very adaptable. They assume that what they see and how they see is normal — even if their vision is problematic. That's why it is important for parents to monitor the time a child spends working at a computer.
Children are smaller than adults. Since computer workstations are often arranged for adult use, this can change the viewing angle for children. Computer users should view the screen slightly downward, at a 15-degree angle. Furthermore, as a result of difficulty reaching the keyboard or placing their feet on the floor, a child may experience neck, shoulder and/or back pain.
Five Tips for Preventing Computer Vision Syndrome in Children
Many pediatric eye doctors believe that environmental stress of the "near-point world" rather than heredity is creating the myopia (nearsightedness) epidemic. In fact, children using computers before their visual systems are fully developed are at the very heart of the public health problem called computer vision syndrome (CVS). To prevent your child from suffering from CVS, follow these five tips:
Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam, including near-point (computer and reading) and distance testing.
Workstations should be arranged to suit a child — not an adult.
The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18-28 inches. By viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches, children risk straining their eyes. Read more tips for adjusting the monitor and room lighting to reduce glare.
Parents and teachers should be aware of any behavior that indicates potential problems, such as eye redness, frequent rubbing of the eyes, head turns and other unusual postures, or complaints of blurriness or eye fatigue. Avoidance of the computer may also be an indication of discomfort.
Most importantly, have your child's eyes examined by a computer vision specialist. Also read about how computer eyeglasses work to reduce vision problems and eye fatigue.