Children can spend hours a day looking at computer screens and other digital devices. Some eye care professionals say this leads to an increase in “computer vision syndrome.”
Nathan Bonilla-Warford is an optometrist in Tampa, Florida. He says he has seen an increase in problems in children.
“I see a lot more children who are coming into the office either because their parents have noticed that they have headaches or red or watery eyes or discomfort, or because their prescription, their near-sightedness, appears to be increasing at a fast rate and they're worried.”
Dr. Bonilla-Warford says part of the problem is that children may be more likely than adults to ignore early warning signs.
“Even if their eyes start to feel uncomfortable or they start to get a headache, they’re less likely to tell their parents, because they don’t want to have the game or the computer or whatever taken away.”
He says another part of the problem is that people blink less often when they use digital devices.
“The average person who uses a computer or an electronic device blinks about a third as much as we normally do in everyday life. And so that can result in the front part of the eye drying and not staying moist and protected like normal.”
Eye doctors offer suggestions like following which is known as the 20/20/20 rule. “Every twenty minutes, look away twenty feet or more for at least twenty seconds from whatever device you’re using.”
Other suggestions include putting more distance between you and the device and using good lighting. Of course, another way to avoid eye strain is to spend less time looking at screens. Many experts say children should spend no more than two hours a day using digital devices -- with no screen time for children under two.
But not all eye doctors have noticed an increase in problems in children. Dr. David Hunter is a pediatric ophthalmologist at Children’s Hospital Boston. He also is a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. He has not seen an increase in his practice.
“While it is possible to develop fatigue looking at various screens for a long period of time, there’s certainly no evidence that it actually causes any damage to the eyes.”