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The Effects of Extensive Computer Use on Children's Eyes

As Canadian children spend more and more time using computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones for both school and play they are increasingly straining their eyes. Both adults and children are at risk for a variety of strain factors, including early myopia (nearsightedness) as well as headaches, blurry vision, fatigue, dry eyes and red eyes. However, children are more likely to experience these symptoms because their eyes are still developing. Computers require fine motor skills, something young eyes are not yet developed enough to handle. There are a few factors that put children at risk for computer related eye strain:

  • Children are also not yet capable to accurately judge the passage of time. They may perform a task on the computer for hours without taking a break, creating eye focusing and eye strain problems.
  • Children are also highly adaptable. Though normally a good quality, it makes children assume that what they see and how they see is normal even if they are experiencing vision problems.
  • Children are much smaller than adults, but computer work stations do not always take this into account.

There are several things that parents can do to reduce the risk of computer related eye strain in their children:

  1. Schedule regular eye exams for your child
    Before starting school each fall every child should undergo a comprehensive eye exam including near-point (reading on a computer, reading a book) and distance testing.

  2. Limit screen time
    By limiting the amount of time your child spends on the computer without a break you can help ensure their eyes get a chance to rest, minimizing the development of eye irritation and focusing problems.. Encourage children to take a 20 second break every 20 minutes.

  3. Adjust the workstation
    Since children are smaller than adults they require computer work stations that accommodate that. The recommended distance for children between themselves and the computer monitor is 45 to 72 cm (18-28 inches). Working with a screen that is closer than 45 cm causes eye strain.

  4. Adjust the lighting
    Both adults and children require appropriate light levels for computer work. Light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor in order to reduce glare. The amount of light in the room should be slightly lower than the amount emitted from the computer screen.

For more information about pediatric eye care or to book an eye exam contact Market Mall Optometry today at 403-286-4884 and visit

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