— School will be starting next week and each year technology is integrated more and more into the classroom.
Some view it as a good thing, while others argue that students are becoming too tech-dependent. We are not going to have that debate here now. Instead, we are going to talk about how using certain tech devices can have an effect on students’ eyes. This may be something to which parents and teachers have not given much thought.
Data from the American Optometric Association’s 2012 American Eye-Q® consumer survey indicate 60 percent of parents estimate their children spend up to four hours per day at home or in school looking at a computer or digital device screen. With smartboards, tablets and other digital tools being incorporated into daily school curriculums, the technology has students spending much of their time learning and socializing in front of a screen. This can pose a number of challenges to the visual system. Many of these issues can be solved with frequent breaks, proper set-up of computer screens and yearly, comprehensive eye exams by a doctor of optometry.
This is why we are going to share a few tips suggested by the New York State Optometric Association. According to a media release sent out by the organization, continuous or prolonged use of technology can lead to computer vision syndrome, which may include eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, urning or tired eyes, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain. Preexisting, uncorrected vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism, difficulty with focusing or eye coordination can also contribute to discomfort associated with CVS.
The release says parents and teachers can help students avoid CVS by encouraging children to follow the 20-20-20 rule. When using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes, and view something 20 feet away. Studies show that people need to rest their eyes to keep them moist. Plus, staring off into the distance helps the eyes from locking into a close-up position.
The following NYSOA guidelines can help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with computer vision syndrome:
• Check the height and arrangement of the computer. According to optometrists, a computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and held 20 to 28 inches away from the eyes.
• Check for glare on the computer screen. If possible, windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. If this happens, turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen.
• Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower-wattage light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
• Keep blinking. To minimize the chances of developing dry eye when using a computer or digital device, make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eye moist.
Most importantly, as part of the yearly, back-to-school checklist, students should see a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination to ensure their eyes are healthy and functioning properly.