Mar-17: HEALTH MATTERS
Too much screen time damages eyesight of children
Computers, video games, televisions and other screen related activities dominate our lives today. You may think this applies more to adults and teenagers. But, thatâ€™s not the case. Children barely old enough to move a mouse are using a tablet or smartphone for recreation and learning!
Experts warn that too much screen time may not only lead to obesity, stress, aggression and social isolation, but also damage vision. Excessive screen time may lead to Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS), short-sightedness and crossed eyes.
Some of the symptoms of CVS are dry, itchy, red or burning eyes; blurred or double vision; eye strain; headache; pain in neck, shoulder or back; dizziness and difficulty refocusing the eyes. Do not ignore these symptoms. CVS can lead to a gradual decline in vision. New research indicates that excessive smartphone use may lead to crossed eyes. Also, short-sightedness among youngsters has increased due to too much screen time.
We interviewed Dr. Dipan Desai, M.S. (Ophthal), FSVH (Germany) and Director of Diva Eye Institute. Excerpts:
Q. How does CVS occur?
A. CVS is a group of eye and vision related problems caused by continuous viewing of the screen of a display device for a long time. Poor lighting, glare on the screen, poor sitting posture or improper viewing distance may aggravate the situation.
Q. How do children get affected by it?
A. We blink roughly 20 to 22 times a minute. When we are staring at screens our blinking rate falls down drastically which leads to dryness of the eyes causing eye strain. When children use computers or play video games, they donâ€™t realize how fatigued their eyes are. Nowadays, both study and leisure time involve screen intensive activities.
Q. What should children do to relieve eye strain?
A. Children should follow the well-known 20-20-20 rule â€“ after every 20 minutes you use a computer, look at something that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds. They should also take regular breaks. If required, one should use an anti-glare screen or anti-glare glasses.
Palming is a yoga exercise that helps eyes overcome fatigue. Place your palms over your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply for a minute. While doing so, relax not just your eyes and mind but all the muscles in your body.
Q. What can parents do to protect their childrenâ€™s eyesight?
A. Parents have to limit time that children spend watching cartoons on TV or playing on phones. Perhaps the best thing that they could do would be to delay exposure to electronic devices for as long as possible.
Parents should get an annual eye examination done for their children. Vision problems are easier to resolve when detected early, especially in children. Also, children should be taught to never touch their eyes without washing their hands. This prevents infections such as styes.
Tips for healthy vision
- Healthy and balanced diet: Nutritional deficiencies during childhood can lead to the onset of ocular damage, often irreversible.
- Stimulating vision: Stacking blocks, shape sorters and colouring crayons are useful aids for visual stimulation.
- Proper lighting and distance: To reduce glare, windows and other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of a monitor. Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. Ideally, the screen should be 28 to 30 inches away from the eye and 15 to 20 degrees lower than the eye.
- Encourage outdoor play: There is a correlation between a reduction in the risk of near-sightedness and exposure to sunlight.
- Look out for warning signs: Parents and other caregivers need to be watchful for signs of vision problems in kids as they may not be able to convey their discomfort.