More vision problems for kids blamed on electronics

More vision problems for kids blamed on electronics

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by Carolyn Holly

Bio | Email | Follow: @KTVBCarolyn

KTVB.COM

Posted on October 30, 2012 at 9:37 PM

Updated Thursday, Dec 5 at 11:56 AM

BOISE -- There may be something getting in the way of your child's eyesight and that something is what they are looking at every day: electronics.

Whether its computers, iPhones or video games, heavy use of these devices is cause for concern when it comes to what is known as computer vision syndrome.

Living in the country, Gus and his twin sister Kate Jackson have plenty of space to do plenty of fun things outside, but there is always that "something" that draws him inside.

Like most kids, Gus loves playing video games! However, his mom says hours on them may be the reason her son all of the sudden needs glasses.

"I was just a little bit taken back. Kinda came on suddenly and then when we went to the doctor and he explained how kids eyes are faced with a lot of distractions and a lot of small things. It kind of rang true for me," says Gus and Kate's mother Char Jackson said.

This is called computer vision syndrome. In Gus's case, he could not focus on his reading words.

 "Whenever I do that the lines pop out," Gus said.

"This is something I see in my practice on a regular bases." says Optometrist Dr. Todd Winbigler.

Dr. Winbigler says kids are coming into his office suffering from digital eyestrain.

Their little eyes have to work very hard.

"In order for the child to maintain a focus or even the adult, they have to move them closer and that makes the image even larger to them, but the eyes have to turn in to do that and this creates even added eyestrain. Our eyes are not designed to do that," says Dr. Winbigler.

That is where the Harmon Distance Rule comes in. The distance between your elbow and knuckle is how far your child should have the digital device from his or her eyes.

There is also the 20/20/20 rule. After 20 minutes, put the device down, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

The digital strain comes from those young eyes looking at too small of images on too small of a screen.

The result- nearsightedness.

Dr. Winbigler says, "The bigger the better is always a good rule than the eye doesn't have to be so accurate."

That means a font size on the computer of 12 or larger.

"He said there are just so many small screens these days that kids look at, from the iPhone to the DS. Even what we don't realize is that the whiteboard at school where it use to be a chalkboard for us. The contrast between the chalk and the board is not as great as it is now with the whiteboard and the black ink. Things that we don't think about are tougher on the kids that go to school now," said Char.

However, technology is responding.

Dr. Winbigler says, "We're going to have better tools to help children. We're going to see better technology not only in the instruments they use but the approaches we take to their problems."

Since kids are being "wired" so early, Doctors recommended that kids get an eye exam at 6 months, 3 years and before starting kindergarten.

Dr. Winbigler says parents should realize the eye reaches adult size at about Gus's age: 8-years-old.

Char says, "You don't want to hear that anything is wrong with your kids or they are dealing with something. But at least with this I feel like I have some control over it and I can curb how much time he's on the device and make him take breaks and just make sure he's wearing his glasses at school when he's reading and doing the work he needs them for."

One of the new improvements coming out to help your child's eye strain, are glasses just for computer use.

They are available right now, just check with your eye doctor.

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