"iStrain"-Doctors Recommend Less Screen Time

By: Lily Wu - Email
By: Lily Wu - Email

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Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Computer Vision Syndrome is a condition associated with blurred vision from using electronic devices and it has been thought of as problem for adults, but mild signs of CVS are starting to show up in children.

Optometrists in Wichita are seeing more children with vision problems from having too much screen time.

Dr. Patrick Pirotte of Child and Family Eyecare, specializes in children's vision. He is concerned that more Americans are becoming nearsighted and more children are coming to see him with mechanical vision problems. He believes that the increase in screen time could have consequences on children and adults.

“Screen time almost 100% of the time means you're sitting still on your bottom and you're looking at a screen. That's the worst thing you can do if you want your child's eyes and eye movements and eye coordination to develop normally before you send them to school,” said Dr. Pirotte.

Parents like Brenda Cole worry that her three homeschooled children are spending more time reading from a screen than a textbook.

“All of the computer time and the game time, the TV time, concerns me. I limit all of that,” said Cole.

According to VSP Vision Care, nearly half of US children spend four hours a day or more using computers or electronic devices. Parents and teachers like Glenna Grinstead say the screen time is not just at home.

“At the high school, I know that my students use it a lot so that's just one of the realities of life, unfortunately. Even as adults, we're using a lot of computers,” said Grinstead.

Dr. Pirotte said CVS is just the tip of the iceberg. The bigger problem is kids are spending more time in front of a screen and less time being active.

“That's what helps kids develop and that's not changed by screens and new computer technology. We think 'it's good that our kids know how to use an iPad 'cause they'll need to do that,'” he said. “There's plenty of time for them to learn to do that later.”

While children may not have the severe symptoms of CVS, viewing a screen can make eyes work harder and become strained.

“Just feels like my eyes are on fire,” said Grinstead's son, Tylon Ybarra. “My eyes start to hurt and I rub my eyes every time. Then, I go back to playing.”

Eye strain can be caused by poor lighting, glares, and being too close the screen.

One way to prevent eye strain is to take a break. Optometrists recommend the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a chance to refocus. For every 20 minutes that you use an electronic device, take a 20 second break, and look at something 20 feet away.

Dr. Pirotte also recommends getting routine eye exams and limiting the amount of time using electronic devices.

“I would like to see a limit of 30 minutes on screen time of after school hours for those kids. Schools need to be aware of this too. They need to give kids breaks. They should not be letting kids, for pleasure or for school, do long uninterrupted blocks of screen time in school,” said Dr. Pirotte.

For more information on eye strain, click here.

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