|Resource page for parents concerned about their
children's injury potential due to computer use at school and home.
When first introduced, computers were almost exclusively used by adults. Today,
children increasingly use these devices both for education and recreation. Millions of
children use computers on a daily basis at school and at home.
Children can experience many of the same symptoms related to computer use as adults.
Extensive viewing of the computer screen can lead to eye discomfort, fatigue, blurred
vision and headaches. However, some unique aspects of how children use computers may make
them more susceptible than adults to the development of these problems.
Children often have a limited degree of self-awareness.
Many children keep performing an enjoyable task with great concentration until near
exhaustion (e.g., playing video games for hours with little, if any, breaks). Prolonged
activity without a significant break can casuse eye focusing (accommodative) problems and
Accommodative problems may occur as a result of the eyes' focusing system "locking
in" to a particular target and viewing distance. In some cases, this may cause the
eyes to be unable to smoothly and easily focus on a particular object, even long after the
original work is completed.
Eye irritation may occur because of poor tearflow over the eye due to reduced blinking.
Blinking is often inhibited by concentration and staring at a computer or video screen.
Compounding this, computers usually are located higher in the field of view than
traditional paperowk. This results in the upper eyelids being retracted to a greater
extent. Therefore, the eye tends to experience more than the normal amount of of tear
evaporation resulint in dryness and irritation.
Children are very adapatable.
Although there are many positive aspects to their adaptability, children frequently ignore
problems that would be addressed by adults. A child who is viewing a computer screen with
a large amount of glare often will not think about changing the computer arrangement or
the surroundings to achieve more comfortable viewing. This can result in excessive eye
strain. Also, children often accept blurred vision caused by nearsightedness,
farsightedness, or astigmatism because they think everyone sees the way they do.
Uncorrected farsightedness can cause eye strain, even when clear vision can be maintained.
Children are not the same size as adults.
Since children are smaller, computers don't fit them well. Most computer
workstations are arranged for adult use. Therefore, a child using a computer on a typical
office desk often must look up further than an adult. Since the most efficient viewing
angle is slightly downward about 15 degrees, problems using the eyes together can occur.
In additon, children may have difficulty reaching the keyboard or placing their feet on
the floor, causing arm, neck, or back discomfort.
Children often use computers in a home or classroom with less than optimum
The lighting level for the proper use of a computer is about half as bright as that
normally found in a classroom. Increased light levels can contribute to excessive glare
and problems associated with adjustments of the eye to different levels of light.
Steps to Visually-Friendly Computer Use
Here are some things to consider for children using a computer:
Have the child's vision checked.
This will make sure that the child can see clearly and comfortably and can detect
any hidden conditions that may contribute to eye strain. When necessary, glasses, contact
lenses or vision therapy can provide clear, comfortable vision, not just for using the
computer, but for all other aspects of daily activities.
Strictly enforce the amount of time that a child can continuously use the
A ten-minute break every hour will minimize the development of eye focusing problems and
eye irritation caused by improper blinking.
Carefully check the height and arrangement of the computer.
The child's size should determine how the monitor and keyboard are positioned. In many
situations, the computer monitor will be too high in the child's field of view, the chair
too low and the desk too high. A good solution to many of these problems is an adjustable
chair that can be raised for the child's comfort, since it is usually difficult to lower
the computer monitor. A foot stool may be necessary to support the child's feet
Carefully check the lighting for glare on the computer screen.
Windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in
front of the monitor. When this occurs, the desk or computer may be turned to prevent
glare on the screen. sometimes glare is less obvious. In this case, holding a small mirror
flat against the screen can be a useful way to look for light sources that are reflection
off of the screen from above or behind. If a light source can be seen in the mirror, the
offending light should be moved or blocked from hitting the screen with a cardboard hood
(a baffle) attached to the top of the monitor. In addition, the American Optometric
Association has evaluated and accepted a number of glare screens that can be added to a
computer to reduce glare. Look for the AOA Seal of Acceptance when purchasing a glare
Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen.
Often this is very simple in the home. In some cases, a smaller light can be
substituted for the bright overhead light or a dimmer switch can be installed to give
flexible control of room lighting. In other cases, a three-way bulb can be turned onto its
Children have different needs to comfortably use a computer. A small amount of effort
can help reinforce appropriate viewing habits and assure comfortable and enjoyable
American Optometric Association, (June, 1997). Impact
of Computer Use on Children's Vision. American Optometric Association: St. Louis, MO.
Return to Kids