Kids & Computer Vision

Kids and computers are nearly inseparable these days. With many school-age kids and even preschool children spending hours in front of a computer every day, it's worth considering what effects computers might have on your children's eyes and their vision. Is it bad for their eyes? Does it help or hurt school performance? Should kids wear computer glasses at school? These and other questions about kids, computers and computer vision are common. This article will help you learn more about these timely topics. 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 (CVS), which can affect children as well as adults

Computer Use Improves School Readiness

Here's good news: Recent research suggests computer use among preschool children may actually improve their readiness for school and academic achievement. In one study of 122 preschoolers enrolled in a rural Head Start program*, children in the experimental group were given the opportunity to work on a computer for 15-20 minutes per day with their choice of developmentally appropriate educational software, while the kids in the control (non-computer) group received a standard Head Start curriculum. All children in the study took four standardized tests at the beginning of the study and six months later to assess their school readiness, visual motor skills, gross motor skills and cognitive development. The children who worked on a computer performed better on measures of school readiness and cognitive development than the children without computers. Also, kids who did computer work both at home and at school performed better than kids who worked at a computer only at school.

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. And many eye care practitioners who specialize in children's vision believe prolonged computer use among children puts them at risk for progressive myopia. For these reasons, it's a good idea to set guidelines for your children when it comes to the amount of time they spend in front of a computer.

Reducing Your Child's Risk of Computer Vision Syndrome and Ergonomics Problems

To reduce your youngster's risk of childhood computer vision syndrome and computer ergonomics problems, make sure he or she is seated comfortably and has a "neutral" posture when working at the computer. Characteristics of this posture include:
Head is balanced on neck, not tilted back or forward. Computer screen should be positioned approximately 15 degrees below eye level.
Back is straight and shoulders back but relaxed. Avoid slumping forward over the keyboard.
Upper arms are close to the body and relaxed, not angled away from his sides or tilted forward.
Forearms are flat on the desk, with the elbows forming at least a 90-degree angle.
Hands are nearly level with forearm, with little wrist bend.
Feet are flat on the floor or a footrest, with knees forming at least a 90-degree angle. (The angle behind the knee should be open; don't tuck legs under the chair.)
Many experts also recommend getting away from the computer every 20 to 30 minutes to stand and stretch. This helps relieve muscle tension that can contribute to computer vision problems and computer ergonomics problems.

Reducing the Risk of Myopia Linked to Computer Use

Though heredity seems to play a significant role in the development of myopia in childhood, some research suggests that eye strain, and specifically computer eye strain, also may be involved. To see clearly up close, the eye has to exert focusing effort. Some researchers feel that fatigue caused by excessive focusing can lead to changes within the eye that cause myopia. And experts agree that focusing on images on a computer screen causes greater eye fatigue than reading normal print in a book or magazine. To reduce the risk of focusing fatigue that can cause advancing nearsightedness among kids who spend a lot of time on a computer, many eye doctors recommend frequent breaks from computer work. Some call this the "20-20-10" rule: Every 20 minutes your child should take his eyes off the computer and look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 10 seconds. This simple exercise relaxes the focusing muscle inside the eye and may help reduce eye strain and eye fatigue that could cause progressive myopia. Some eye doctors also recommend special computer glasses to help relieve eye strain.