As the gift-giving season is upon us, it’s nearly impossible to select a gift that doesn’t have a digital screen. However, with Computer Vision Syndrome affecting more and more people, it’s up to us to give wisely to our children - especially to those who currently have functional vision problems.
The American Optometric Association defines Computer Vision Syndrome as “a group of eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, e-reader and cell phone use.” After prolonged use a number of symptoms can result, including:
- Blurred vision
- Dry eyes
- Neck and shoulder pain
Consider a couple of rather disturbing statistics about Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS):
According to the American Optometric Association, “at greatest risk for develop CVS or Digital Eye Strain are those persons who spend two or more continuous hours at a computer or using a digital screen device every day.”
According to market research by Salesforce.com, respondents report spending 3.3 hours a day on their smartphones.
While the Salesforce.com stat is not “continuous,” all you need to do is look at the average teenager and you know that - if not engaged in continuous usage - kids especially are on their phones a lot. And adults are right there with them.
So why the concern? Why is Computer Vision Syndrome something to worry about - especially for people with functional vision problems?
Computer Vision Syndrome: The Impact on Functional Vision
Functional vision is your ability to see an object in space. It’s how your entire visual system works - the brain, the eyes, and the visual pathways.
For functional vision to work properly, your eyes must work as a team. In a properly functioning vision system, the eyes will focus on a single point on an object, and then send an image of that object to the brain. The brain will combine the object into a 3D image.
An increase in visual stress - such as the kind experienced as a result of CVS - can impact functional vision. With increased use of these devices:
- People that have functional vision problems could experience more symptoms.
- People that do not currently have functional vision problems could develop them.
Smarter Digital Device Usage for Your Visual System
We’ve touched on the problems, now let’s talk about solutions. It all comes to one thing: Being smarter about our digital device usage - especially with kids.
At the end of this post, you can download a chart on how to avoid computer vision syndrome. Here are some other things to keep in mind, both during the holiday season, and beyond:
Every year we create a list of functional vision-friendly gifts. Instead of gifting the latest and greatest digital device, choose one of these toys (especially if a child has a functional vision problem).
Hold the phone at the correct distance.
Use the Harmon Distance. This is measured by placing a closed fist under the chin, and then holding the smartphone at the tip of the elbow. The smartphone should not be held any closer. The phone should also be centered in your line of vision and not held off to the side.
Get outside and play ball.
Send your kids outside to play ball sports (and join them, while you’re at it). Playing with a ball will help them develop visual skills that they need to succeed in school and sports.
Balance usage times.
Use the smartphone for 30 minutes, then spend 30 minutes doing ball sport activities.
We don’t need to deny kids access to digital devices. In fact, in this day and age that doesn’t seem at all realistic.
But we can help moderate their usage, and balance it with activities that maintain and improve their functional vision. Otherwise, the gift you give this Christmas season could result in worsening and/or creating a functional vision problem. Talk about coal in your stocking...