A Note to Parents:
Your child probably spends a lot more time on the computer than you realize. This can have a detrimental impact ... so here are some points to be aware of.
Just as you can experience computer eyestrain and muscle-skeletal disorders as a result of your computer use, especially your laptops and mobile devices, so can your child.
As you know, children may use computers nearly as much as you do, both at school and at home. And extensive use can lead to eye tiredness, blurred vision, and headaches - just like adult. However, some of the ways that children use computers can make them even more liable to have these problems.
Why? The American Optometric Association reports that:
- Children can keep playing or working on the computer with great concentration, without realizing that they are getting tired. For example, they can play video games for hours without a break - causing focusing problems and eye fatigue and irritation. True, adults are perfectly capable of the same actions, but they tend to have more self-awareness, telling them that they are getting tired.
- "Accommodative problems" may result due to continued focusing on one target and one viewing distance. In some cases, this may cause the child to be unable to smoothly and easily focus on something else, even long after off the computer.
- Blinking - necessary to keep the surface of the eyes moist and comfortable - is often inhibited by concentration and staring at a computer or video screen. Since the field of view is more upward than when working at a table or reading, the upper eyelids are more retracted than normal. And so eyes experience more than the normal dryness and irritation.
- You know how adaptable children are. A child viewing a computer screen with a lot of glare may not even notice, or will simply adapt to the condition. We know that screen glare is a contributing factor to eye fatigue.
- Because they have no comparison, children often think that their blurred vision is normal. It is not at all unusual for parents to discover that their child has poor vision only when they have the child's vision checked. So that the 'natural' nearsightedness (myopia), farsightedness (hyperopia), or astigmatism is another contributing factor to eyestrain when using the computer.
- Most computer workstations, even at home for a child's use, are actually arranged for adult use. Therefore, a child using a computer on a typical table often must look up further than an adult. The most efficient viewing angle is slightly downward about 15 degrees, therefore problems using the eyes together can readily 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 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 can contribute to excessive glare and problems associated with adjustments of the eye to different levels of light.
Steps You Can Take to Help Your Computer-Using Child
- Have her vision checked. This will detect any hidden conditions that may contribute to eye strain.
- You should strictly enforce the time of her continuous use of the computer. A ten-minute break every hour will minimize the development of eye focusing problems and eye irritation caused by improper blinking.
- Check the height and arrangement of the computer. The child's size should determine how the monitor and keyboard are positioned. Use an adjustable chair that can be raised for her comfort. Make sure the monitor is not too high in her field of view. Make sure that her arms are somewhat level as she reaches to the keyboard. If she can't reach the floor, make sure she has a foot stool, or that the chair has comfortable rungs so that her legs aren't dangling.
- Check the lighting for glare on the computer screen -- from her viewing angle. Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. Glare filters can be helpful, but remember that they do reduce visibility.
- Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. Install a smaller light, a dimmer bulb or use a dimmer switch.