Study finds direct link between computer use and vision problems in children

March 27, 2002

Berkeley, CA, March 27, 2002- Computer vision problems are not just for adults. Up to 30 percent of the some 37 million U.S. children who use computers at home or school may need special computer eyewear to reduce their risk of premature vision problems, according the a University of California at Berkeley School of Optometry study released at International Vision Expo/East in New York City.

The study, conducted by Pia Hoenig, O.D., M.A., Chief of the Binocular Vision Clinic at UC/Berkeley, also shows a strong correlation between children who work many hours at a computer and premature myopia (nearsightedness), the ability to see close objects more clearly than distant objects. While the evidence is not conclusive, the significance of the results warrants further research in the area.

"It's been well-documented that over 70% of computer-using adults suffer from a condition known as Computer Vision Syndrome or CVS, which is caused by staring at computer images, or pixels, for hours at a time," said Dr. Hoenig. "We know now that CVS also affects children, many of whom have used computers since before they could walk."

In the study, Dr. Hoenig and eight optometrists assessed the duration and frequency of computer usage and its relationship to eye focusing responses among 253 children aged 6 to 10 years using a PRIO KIDS tester (PKT) and conventional eye tests. They also examined the frequency of any abnormal focusing activities the children undertook when using the computer, such as moving close to the screen.

The eye examinations also included assessments of children's ability to distinguish details and shapes of objects and their binocular vision, the ability to blend the separate images seen by each eye into a single image and perceive depth. Children also received refraction assessments to determine the best eyeglasses to correct vision errors.

Some unique aspects of how children use computers may make them more susceptible than adults to the development (CVS). According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), the impact of computer use on children's vision involves the following factors:Because 80 percent of a child's learning comes from vision, the Vision Council of America (VCA) and the AOA recommend that children should have their first comprehensive eye exam from an ophthalmologist or optometrist before they enter Kindergarten. Comprehensive vision exams given by an eye doctor detect many vision problems regular screenings may miss. While vision screenings are important, it is estimated that they only catch about one-third of all vision problems.
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VCA is offering a free brochure and a self-test to determine if a child or other family member is in need of a comprehensive eye exam. For additional information please call 1-800-424-8422 or visit http://www.checkyearly.com.

Porter Novelli

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