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How Does Computer Use Affect Your Teen's Eyesight?

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According to a study conducted by the University of Michigan, the average child between the ages of 12 and 17 spends 5 hours a week sitting in front of a computer screen. Computer use is great -- it can promote academic growth, provide insight into other cultures, and expand your child's communication skills. Unfortunately, it can also affect their vision if proper measures aren't taken to limit eye strain. Read on to learn exactly how your child's eyesight can be affected by computer screens, and what you can do to limit these effects.

Computer Vision Syndrome

Your teen's eyes have to work much harder to read on a computer screen than they would to read a book. On computer screens, the letters are less defined than they are in books, and there isn't as much contrast between the letters and the background. Furthermore, computer screens give off glares and reflections that put added strain on your kid's eyes.

As your child tries to keep up with the ever-changing adjustments their eye muscles need to make while they read a computer screen, they could damage these muscles or just flat-out exhaust them. The general term that applies to problems that arise from this scenario is known as computer vision syndrome.

Symptoms of computer vision syndrome include headaches, blurred or double vision, dry and/or burning eyes, and dizziness. According to the National Institute of Health, the percentage of the U.S. population affected by nearsightedness has doubled in the past 30 years, and many researchers believe that the sudden rise can be attributed to untreated computer vision syndrome. 


The technical term for nearsightedness is myopia. Myopia occurs when the cornea is too curved or the eyeball is too long and light cannot be properly focused on the back wall of the eyeball. As a result, a person who suffers from myopia can see perfectly well if something is near to their face, but can't see very well when trying to focus on something farther away.

The only 2 known causes of myopia are heredity and visual stress. In most cases, once a person has developed myopia, they will need to wear eyeglasses or contact lenses to correct their vision or undergo laser eye surgery.

Protecting Your Teen's Eyes

There are a few steps you can take to protect your child's eyesight from the damaging effects your family's computer can have on them. 

  • Set Boundaries - Limit the amount of time your teen spends on the computer to no more than an hour a day. While they're using the computer, encourage them to give their eyes a rest by placing an object somewhere on the opposite side of the room. Equip them with a timer and insist that they spend 20 seconds focusing on that object every 20 minutes.
  • Reduce Glare - Position your computer room's lighting source behind the computer screen to reduce glare. If you're using an overhead light, it should be no brighter than the computer screen. 
  • Upgrade Your Equipment - Old, low-resolution computer monitors don't display letters and graphics as clearly as the newer models do. If you haven't upgraded your monitor in a while, consider purchasing a flat-panel model with a high-resolution display.
  • Monitor Eye Health - Schedule an appointment for your teen to have an eye exam at least once a year. Even if they already have corrective lenses, their prescriptions could change, further agitating their eye strain while they're using a computer. If you've taken the above measures and still feel as though your teen is straining their eyes while on the computer, an eye doctor may recommend computer glasses -- glasses exclusively designed to relax their wearers' vision when used to view computer screens.

It's difficult to outright deny your teen computer access; computers have become somewhat of a necessity in the United States. You can, however, limit your teen's risk of damaging their eyesight by knowing the vision-associated dangers of computer use and taking the necessary steps to protect against them.

Check out sites like to find an optometrist near you to assist you in keeping your child's eyes healthy.