People of all ages, and especially children and teens spend hours every day playing on computers and texting on cell phones. Parents should be aware that all that time looking at print on an electronic screen could actually put their children’s vision at risk.
Screen time is increasing
Statistics show that 94 percent of families with children in the U.S. have a computer hooked up to the internet. Between 1999 and 2009, the amount of time children and teens spend on the computer has tripled from 30 minutes to 90 minutes a day. Add to that the time spent playing video games and sending text messages and it adds up to hours a day with the eyes focused up-close on an electronic screen.
For most adults, this probably isn’t a cause for concern. The eyes of adults have developed the ability to hold focus. In addition, adults tend to be aware of their bodies and will notice if their eyes are tired or too dry from looking at a screen for too long.
Screen time and children’s vision
Children are a different story. Many eye doctors who specialize in treating children believe that using a computer too much can put them at risk for developing myopia at an earlier age. Myopia, which is also called nearsightedness, is a condition where the eyes focus clearly up close but are not able to focus as clearly at a distance. Using a computer requires the eyes to use fine motor skills that may not be fully developed in young children. This means children’s eyes are more likely to be strained by long periods focused on a computer or other screen.
Parents should be aware of the factors that can cause children to strain their eyes:
• Lack of time awareness – Children are more likely than adults to lose track of how long they have been working on the computer or playing a video game. They are also less likely to think about taking a break, and are less willing to put the game on pause and look around for a few minutes.
• Adaptability – Children tend to adapt to whatever their surroundings are, whether good or bad.