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Preparing kids for a digital world

Today’s teachers make full use of computers, interactive whiteboards, digital devices, and even 3D technology to enhance the learning environment. Forty percent of teachers use computers for instruction, and at least one computer is in 97% of all American classrooms. That adds up to a lot of screen time for kids who also watch TV or play on the computer at home.

Today’s kids spend far more time doing “near work,” such as texting, looking stuff up on cell phones, and playing computer games. In fact, children age 8 to 18 spend more than seven hours each day with electronics and 75% of American children under age 8 have access to a smartphone or tablet. Most vision experts say parents should apply commonsense rules to how much time their children spend on electronic devices and follow the tips above. While While the benefits of digital technology are many for humans, there is increasing evidence that digital eyestrain  or eye fatigue are now common problems and are especially a problem for kids.

Why do problems occur?

  •  Research shows that people hold digital devices closer to their eyes than they hold books and newspapers. That forces their eyes to work harder.
  • Digital devices may also be linked to eye fatigue because of a tendency to blink less often when staring at a computer screen. Studies suggest that people only blink about half as often while using a computer or other digital device.
  • Computer vision syndrome occurs when you’re carrying out the same motion over and over again and can get worse the longer you continue the activity. Working at a computer requires that eyes continuously focus, move back and forth, align with what you are seeing and look down at papers and then back up to type. These functions require a lot of effort from eye muscles. The computer screen also adds the elements of screen contrast, flicker, and glare.

Common digital eyestrain symptoms

  • Head, neck or back pain
  • Eye pain/tiredness
  • Redness, watering, dryness
  • Burning or itching
  • Double vision
  • Loss of focus

The good news is there are numerous things you can recommend to the kids (and for yourself) do to help avoid the condition, including:

Make changes to computer screens at home, such as:

–Place the screen 20-26 inches away from eyes and a little below eye level.Regularly clean off smudges, dust and fingerprints from the screen.

— Choose screens that tilt and swivel.

–Consider using a glare filter over screen.

–Keep monitors bright and increase light in the room.

  • Help kids practice the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
  • Use artificial tears to hydrate the corneas. Help children put them in before bed, upon waking up and in the afternoon.
  • Switch between contacts and glasses with anti-glare lenses.

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