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31 July 2011

How Much Screen Time Is Too Much for Children?

Children can spend hours a day looking at computer screens and other digital devices. Some eye care professionals say all thatscreen time has led to an increase in what they call computer vision syndrome.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford is an optometrist in Tampa, Florida, with VSP, Vision Service Plan, a big insurance provider. Hesays he has seen an increase in problems in children.

NATHAN BONILLA-WARFORD: “I see a lot more children who are coming into the office either because their parents have noticed that they haveheadaches or red or watery eyes or discomfort, or because their prescription, their near-sightedness, appears to be increasing at a fast rate and they're worried.”

Dr. Bonilla-Warford says part of theproblem is that children may be more likely than adults to ignore early warning signs.

NATHAN BONILLA-WARFORD: “Even if their eyes start to feel uncomfortable or they start to get a headache, they’reless likely to tell their parents, because they don’t want to have the game or the computer or whatever taken away.”
He says another part of the problem is that people blink less often when they usedigital devices.

NATHAN BONILLA-WARFORD: “The average person who uses a computer or an electronic device blinks about a third as much as we normally do in everyday life. And so that can result inthe front part of the eye drying and not staying moist and protected like normal.”
Eye doctors offer suggestions like following what is known as the 20/20/20 rule.

NATHAN BONILLA-WARFORD: “Everytwenty minutes, look away twenty feet or more for at least twenty seconds from whatever device you’re using.”

Twenty feet -- that's six meters.
Other suggestions include putting more distancebetween you and the device and using good lighting. Of course, another way to avoid eye strain is to spend less time looking at screens. Many experts say children should spend no more than two hours a day...
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