Can Video Games Affect My Child’s Eyesight?

Digital Eye Strain Can Affect My Child?

Do your kids play hand-held video games, text on a cell phone or even complete homework on the computer? VSP Optometrist Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warford from has provided a guest post for Blog With Mom to explain exactly what digital eye strain is and how it can affect children.

Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome (CVS), is a term for any number of eye or vision-related problems that can occur from using a computer or digital device. Symptoms can include blurry vision, difficulty focusing, dry or irritated eyes, headaches and even neck and back pain.

The eyes function best when looking at something in the distance; the closer something is, the harder they have to work to focus. That doesn’t mean our eyes weren’t designed for close work as well; they just need a break every now and then to “refresh.” Another factor is that we tend to blink less when looking at screens, which can lead to dry and irritated eyes. Essentially, when your kids are highly focused on an internet research project—or more likely conquering the next level of Angry Birds—their eyes can get a bit stressed.

Although the effects of CVS are short term, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and encourage good eyecare habits to help your children navigate a lifetime of digital device usage. Below are a few tips for to help you help your children reduce their risk of CVS.

Watch the time. The best way to avoid CVS is to take frequent breaks to refresh the eyes—follow the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, make sure your child takes a break to stare at something about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also make sure to limit device usage to around two hours a day. This can be a challenge, but the average usage is almost four times that! For children two and under, avoid digital devices all together.

Create a kid-size work space. When working at adult desks, children sometimes have to crane their necks, look up at the screen or sit uncomfortably to do work. Avoid this issue and set up a small desk with an adjustable chair that provides good back support.

Keep the proper working distance. The distance between your child’s eyes and a screen should be approximately the distance between his or her elbow and knuckle. If your child is leaning too close to the computer screen or holding reading material close to his or her face, it could signal an underlying vision problem.

Schedule regular eye exams. Children’s vision changes often and it’s important that they have the best vision possible when using digital devices to help avoid CVS. This starts with a comprehensive examination by an eye doctor, not just a school screening. Children should have their first eye exam at six months of age, then at three years, before starting school and every year after that.

Go outside. Playing is healthy for the body and mind. Research also shows that two hours of outdoor play each day can help prevent nearsightedness. Of course, sunglasses are non-negotiable. Children have larger pupils and are susceptible to more UV damage than adults.

Nathan Bonilla-Warford, O.D., F.A.A.O., practices at Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Florida. Dr. Bonilla-Warford has lectured on visual care of children, the importance of vision in personal development, and options for controlling nearsightedness.

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