We are living in the digital age. Most Gold Coasters are using screens throughout the day during work or to relax. This means that we are spending much more time concentrating at near distances in a sustained way over extended periods of time. This is especially true for kids and teens and raises serious concerns for developing eyes and visual systems. A recent consumer survey found the average adult worker is spending 9+ hours per day looking at a screen in some form.
Recent research showed that 40 percent of 3 to 4 year olds use the home computer each day. Ninety percent of 15 year olds have mobile phones and most phones are used to access the internet and social media. By age 12 children on average spend over two hours per day watching TV and two hours more on computer. By 18 these times have increased by another two hours. Additional school time and time spent on mobile phones mean that concentrated indoor tasks account for a significant percentage of waking hours for young Gold Coasters.
All of this has resulted in us seeing more Gold Coasters suffering from what is known as Computer Vision Syndrome.
Do Computers damage my eyes?
Computers in themselves do not cause any damage to your eyes in terms of eye health or visual skills, but computer use is very visually demanding and will highlight any existing visual deficits.
Using computers means you have to:
- Focus at one distance for long periods
- Keep a posture that is not the same as most other visual tasks
- Sit and attend for long periods
- Look at a bright screen that may be flickering
- Focus on electronically produced print that may be flickering
There is no research that shows that looking at a computer screen all day will actually create vision or eye problems. In fact research has shown that computer use will highlight any underlying problems that may pre-exist.
Signs of Computer Vision Syndrome
You may experience some or all of the following:
- Eye strain
- Distance blur after computer use
- Dry, red or itchy eyes
- Sore neck and shoulders
How Can I Avoid The Effects of CVS?
When we spend prolonged periods staring at digital screens, the visual system can show signs of stress such as discomfort around the eyes or distance vision not appearing as clear as it normally is. There are a number of proactive preventative steps you can take to ensure your eyes feel comfortable and avoid the above symptoms.
Headaches after prolonged computer use may seem like they are due to eye problems, but poor posture may actually be the cause. Be aware of this, relax and breathe. Sit up straight. The screen distance should be arm’s length for desktop computers, a little more than reading distance for laptops, and tablets should be the same as reading matter – forearm distance from your nose.
Looking at a screen all day will mean that your eyes are focussing at just one distance. This would be the same as holding your arm horizontally without moving all day – which would be tiring wouldn’t it? Well that’s what you’re asking your eyes to do when looking at a computer screen. Looking away from your screen and getting up for a break every now and then will help keep your eyes rested.
Envision Optical Optometrists recommend taking breaks from computers, phones and tablets every 15 – 20 minutes to keep the eye muscles moving. Look up, focus on other objects around you, close your eyes and roll them widely a few times before resuming work.
Ensure the room lighting is similar to the screen brightness.
Don’t Over-Do It
Vision develops better during activities such as reading and active play. Alternate periods of intense screen viewing with periods of outdoor play or sport, which require distance vision. More green time, less screen time!
How can an assessment with our Gold Coast Behavioural Optometrists help?
- They will discuss your specific requirements for computer use.
- They will test and assess your focus and eye alignment systems.
- They will check that your binocular vision system can maintain visual attention for periods of time.
Solutions may include:
- Spectacles for computer use including extended focus “office” lenses
- Vision therapy
- Visual hygiene advice
- Drops for dry eyes
If you are short sighted (myopic) it is often best to remove your glasses for sustained computer use.