The Screen and Kids' Vision: How to Keep Young Eyes Healthy

The Screen and Kids

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Updated on Sep 23, 2010

Our eyes are constantly on call every waking minute of every day, from observing passers-by, to reading signage, to gazing out at the horizon. Today, however, it may be more likely that you're staring at a digital display than anything else. From smart phones to laptops to eReaders and beyond, chances are you and your children spend a significant amount of every day in front of a screen. What does that mean for the health of young eyes, and what can parents do to help prevent long term issues?

According to recent studies, children and teens ages 8–18 spend an average of 7 ½ hours a day looking at digital images including computers, smart phones, video games or television. To adapt to this screen-saturated viewing situation, our eyes are becoming increasingly stressed and strained.

Wondering what some of the worst culprits of screen strain are? Here are a few sources of eye stress, and how to help children (and adults!) develop habits for healthy vision.

The Monitor

Viewing a digital display differs significantly from normal paper viewing, especially in terms of how close or far the screen is, as well as its brightness. Kids and adults alike will often catch themselves hunched over their keyboard, nose to nose with their monitor. Not only is this bad for posture, but it wreaks havoc on your eyes. Remember to sit up and away from your computer screen, and try to catch yourself whenever you find yourself leaning in for a closer view. Moreover, be sure the brightness of whatever screen you lock eyes with is uniform with the background brightness of the room. This goes for TV screens as well!  After-dinner tube-watching in complete darkness can be harmful to your vision, especially for young eyes. Moreover, make sure your children aren’t holding their smart phones or gaming devices too close to those eager faces.


The glossy surface a computer monitor or smart phone screen can be highly reflective. Glare can be harmful to your vision, especially when staring at it for extended periods of time. You can reduce glare with an anti-glare film that can be placed over the screen, or simply by positioning your screen properly to reduce light reflection. While your screen is turned off, angle it so no reflection of light is shown. Make sure the lights in the room are as they would be when you're working on the computer. Especially in kids' rooms, make sure that the area behind the screen is well lit. If you or your child wears glasses while using a computer, you'll probably benefit from a very slight yellow or rose colored tint in the lens.

Room Lighting

Paper is meant to reflect light, but computers generate their own light. Along those lines, lighting a room where your children do homework – both on paper and on a computer – can be challenging because both viewing situations must be accommodated. Try to keep the computer display viewing area separate from where your child works on paper, and use spot lighting to highlight the paperwork. Spot lighting can help keep the light from scattering onto the computer screen and reduce the glare your child looks at.

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