Computer Vision Syndrome (Children and Teens)

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) – Children and Teens

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is defined as the complex of eye and vision problems associated with computer use. Most parents are concerned with the types of people or subject matter that their children and teenagers are encountering online and on television. Very few if any worry about the effects on their children’s eyesight. You’ve all experienced it – the burning itching heavy eyes that result after spending hours on the computer. Now imagine how drastic the effects could be on a pair of developing eyes.

Computer vision syndrome (CVS) is defined as the complex of eye and vision problems associated with computer use. Symptoms can include fatigue headaches and neck and shoulder pain. Eyes often become itchy red and generally sore; blurred vision is also possible. People who sit in front of a computer for two hours or more are considered at risk for developing the disorder.

This doesn’t bode well for the children of the internet generation. The average child now spends one to three hours on the computer (not including at school) doing homework talking online with friends
and playing games. Approximately 90 per cent of school-age children now have computer access either at home or at school. Recently there have been studies pointing to increased risk for early myopia (near-sightedness) in children that frequently use computers. Sitting for hours in front of a computer screen requires constant accommodation of the internal eye muscles and this may result in eyestrain. Due to the poor edge definition of most computer images eye muscles are in a state of flux
going in and out of focus to maintain image sharpness. Moreover long hours in front of the computer often result in a decreased blink rate and tear evaporation; burning redness and grittiness are commonly experienced.

So why are children more prone to eye injury from computers? There are three general reasons:

  1. Children and teenagers have inadequate understanding about the situation. They can work/play in front of a computer for hours without realizing the possible damage they could be doing. This prolonged focusing can cause serious eyestrain problems.
  2. Children and teenagers aren’t fully developed physically yet and are not used to changes. So they think the way they see hear and think is completely normal – even if it’s problematic. Any discomfort they experience therefore usually goes unreported.
  3. Children and teenagers are smaller than adults. When a workspace is set up for adult-length arms adult-length legs and the computer is a certain distance from adult eyes it is not geared for a tinier body. Children may attempt to overcompensate by sitting right in front of the monitor or positioning themselves in a manner that may lead to more than eye problems such as neck or back injury.

In order to protect your child or teenager from developing CVS symptoms it is recommended that they be given yearly eye examinations particularly if they display any sort of distress about their eyes. They should also be made to take frequent breaks from the computer. Workstations should be adjusted to fit the child/teen as well as the adult – monitors should be roughly 18-28 inches away from the child/teen’s eyes and there should be minimal glare and appropriate room lighting (i.e. – not pitch dark not too bright.)