Digital Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome


Digital Eyestrain And Computer Vision Syndrome

In the past decade, computer use among children has become pervasive. Many Eye Care professionals believe that heavy computer use among children puts them at risk for early myopia.

Recent research appears to confirm that fear. Any doubts about a potential myopia boom faded into the distance this week on the back of two major studies in the UK and US.

Consider these statistics:

  • A recent study indicated that 16.4% of UK children are now myopic, compared to 7.2% in the 1960s, and that nearly one in five teenagers in the UK now have myopia.
  • It coincided with another major study in the US, of 9,000 Los Angeles-area children by the USC Eye Institute, which also reported a two-fold increase over the last 50 years.
  • Despite the rising numbers, it was noted that prevalence of myopia in white children in the UK was ‘much lower’ than in Asian countries. According to the College, 96.5% of 19-year-old males in South Korea are myopic.

The findings have led to renewed calls for parents and teachers to limit children’s screen time, encourage outdoor play and book regular eye exams.

Meanwhile, a flood of innovation to help slow the progression of myopia has given practitioners the tools to deal with a potential surge in young patients.

Myopia studies carried out in Northern Ireland and California each indicated twice as many children with myopia in local markets, compared with the 1960s. The Northern Ireland Childhood Errors of Refraction (Nicer) study, jointly funded by the College of Optometrists and Ulster University, also found children were becoming myopic at a younger age.

Computer Risks for Children

But too much of anything can be a problem. Like adults, children who spend many hours in front of a computer have a greater risk of developing computer ergonomics problems and computer vision syndrome. Computer ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency at their computer work stations. Problems with computer ergonomics are closely associated with computer vision syndrome, which can affect children as well as adults.

Another potential problem of too much screen time (from computers, tablets, video games and smartphones) for children’s eyes is overexposure to harmful blue light. All digital devices with viewing screens emit significant amounts of blue light (also called “high-energy visible light” or “HEV light”) which might increase a child’s risk of macular degeneration later in life.

Though the sun emits significantly more HEV light than computers and other digital devices, the added exposure to blue light kids receive from these devices and how close these electronic screens are to a child’s eyes for hours each day have many eye care providers worried about potential eye damage over time.

And many eye care practitioners who specialise in children’s vision believe prolonged computer use among children puts them at risk for progressive myopia.

Tips To Reduce The Risk Of Computer Vision Syndrome In Children

  1. Have your child’s vision checked. Before starting school, every child should have a comprehensive eye exam, including near-point (computer and reading) and distance testing.
  2. Limit the amount of time your child spends at the computer without a break. Encourage kids to take 20-second breaks from the computer every 20 minutes to minimise the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation. (Sometimes called the “20-20 rule.”)
  3. Check the ergonomics of the workstation. For young and small children, make sure the computer workstation is adjusted to their body size. The recommended distance between the monitor and the eye for children is 18 to 28 inches. Viewing the computer screen closer than 18 inches can strain the eyes.
  4. Check the lighting. To reduce glare, windows and other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen.