Does your child regularly spend more than three consecutive hours in front of a screen?
For that matter, do you?
If the answer is “yes,” your family is almost certainly at risk for Computer Vision Syndrome.
Headaches. Blurred vision. Dry eyes. Fatigue. Neck pain. Dizziness. These are the most common symptoms of a syndrome that can lead to permanent injury in children.
CVS is a condition caused by focusing on a device display for uninterrupted periods - and exacerbated by lack of adequate sleep (itself a common side-effect of excessive screen-time).
According to the US National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CVS affects about 90% of the people who spend three hours or more a day at a computer.
Why is it so?
Why is screen-time so harmful to our eyes when other kinds of prolonged focus - for example, reading a book - are not?
Experts point to three factors.
The first is that most of us habitually hold our screens too close - especially our smartphone and tablet screens. This causes eye strain.
Second, our screens show us pixelated images, that is, images that look solid but are in fact composed of thousands of tiny, single-coloured patches of colour. These low-resolution images create “hard points of focus” that compete for our eyeballs’ attention.
The result, explains Vision Council optometrist Justin Bazan, is that “our focusing system is always in a state of trying to find exactly where the pixel is.” That constant focusing causes still more eye strain.
Finally, we tend to blink less during screen-use. Normally, we blink about 17 times a minute, but this often drops to 12-15 times a minute during computer use. That may not seem like a big deal, but it can lead to damaging dryness.
Simple ways to prevent CVS
Switch on … and switch on!
Be conscious that CVS is a real thing (expert say many sufferers are aware of the symptoms, but not the cause).
Then, make sure devices are being used in the proper light. Keep bright overhead lighting to a minimum. Make sure desk lamps are shining on the desk, not the human! Arrange workspaces so window light is off to the side, and not in front of or behind users.
Make a blinking nuisance of yourself
Remind the kids (and yourself) to keep blinking. As if you don’t have enough to nag them about! But seriously, keeping eyes hydrated with naturally therapeutic tears is a tried-and-true fix for dry-eye.
Monitor the situation
Experts recommend that the centre of the monitor should be 4 to 8 inches lower than eye level. Looking down a bit while working means the eyes are less exposed and therefore less likely to become dry.
Practice 20-20-20 vision
Make it a family rule to take a 20-second break every 20 minutes and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. While you’re at it, stretch your neck and shoulders, too.
Go big or go home
Upsized fonts = downsized risk for CVS. Don’t be afraid to change to the biggest size you’re comfortable with.
Get seen to!
Out-of-date prescriptions for corrective lenses can make a bad situation worse. Make sure everyone in your family gets regular eye checks to screen for CVS and other conditions - including diabetes, high blood pressure, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
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