The world is becoming increasingly dependent on computers. This notion is exemplified in children, who are exposed to computers and similar electronics in nearly every phase of a normal day. They use computers to access classroom software in school, they complete homework assignments using internet research and word processing programs, and they spend their free time indulging in internet-based video games and entertainment streaming services.

With screen exposure becoming a such constant for children, it is worth considering how it can impact their vision over time. The unfortunate reality is that, while computers have been found to benefit school readiness and cognitive development, they can also be detrimental to a child’s sight.

Knowing the Risks

Regardless of age, too much computer time can be a problem due to the specific vision demands of computer screens. Often, computer text is not as defined or precise as that of typewritten or printed pages. As the level of contrast between text and background is reduced, the amount of glare and reflection can rise, making viewing more difficult. This phenomenon leads to visual overcompensation, which can subsequently lead to eye strain and other more serious conditions such as computer ergonomics and computer vision syndrome.

In children, these effects can be heightened, as most children’s vision is still developing. Excessive screen exposure can put children at risk for developmental conditions later in life–such as myopia and macular degeneration.

The Effects of Blue Light

Digital devices with screens have been found to emit blue light, also referred to as “high-energy visible light” or “HEV light.” These emissions can be harmful when absorbed in excess, and since they are also found to come from sunlight, computer screens can potentially expose children to too much of them in a short period of time.

Blue light has been found to be reduced through the use of computer glasses. These lenses essentially act as sunglasses to HEV emissions during extended screen viewing, protecting users from blurred vision, headaches, and eye strain.

Reducing the Risks

In addition to regular parental supervision during computer use, experts suggest that children take a break from screen exposure every 20 to 30 minutes, using this time to move around and stretch. This practice allows the focusing muscles in the eyes to relax, reducing the risk of developmental conditions like myopia.

To reduce vision and ergonomics problems, children should practice a healthy “neutral” posture by remembering the following tips during computer use:

  • Keep your head balanced, rather than tilted forward or backward
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor
  • Keep your arms at 90 degree angles, with your forearms rested on the desk
  • Keep back straight and shoulders back, but relaxed–avoid hunching as much as possible