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'Computer vision syndrome' hits kids in class

August 15, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
If you've got school-age kids, you can see how big a role computers are playing in your child's education. It's amazing how much they're learning, but it can come at a cost to young eyes.

A high-tech blackboard teachers and kids use just like a huge computer is getting into more and more lesson plans.

"We are able to do interactive lessons with the kids, they're really durable for the kids, and we can watch even a live feed too," said 1st-grade teacher Amy Murphy.

While technology is great for learning, it's not always easy on the eyes.

Jacob Steitz, 7, tends to focus on his screen for many minutes at a time. Between his changing eyeglass prescriptions and computers, he started seeing double.

"So I kept on telling my dad 'I want to go to an eye doctor because I keep on seeing two things, and I don't know if that's a problem,'" said Jacob.

It's a growing problem, according to optometrist Dr. Elise Brisco.

"Now that computers are moving into the classrooms and textbooks are moving out, we are seeing 'computer vision syndrome' with children," said Brisco.

Experts say that between television, video games and computer time in the classroom, your child's screen time can really add up.

"It's much harder on the eyes to focus on a computer screen for a prolonged period of time rather than reading a textbook, and that's because the image on a computer screen is flickering really fast," said Brisco.

It's hard on healthy eyes, but even more of a problem for kids with underlying vision problems such as astigmatism or nearsightedness.

Brisco recommends kids take a break from computers every 20 minutes and for kids to play outside. It's good for the body and just as important for the eyes.

"For play time, they are outdoors playing, giving their eye muscles a chance to focus on the distance and work with depth perception and tracking and focusing from near to far, and not spending all their playtime playing video games or watching TV after a whole day in the classroom with computers," said Brisco.

Brisco says young eyes develop so quickly, she recommends all kids get a comprehensive back-to-school eye exam with an optometrist at least once a year.

Thanks to the Pilgrim School in Los Angeles for letting Eyewitness News sit in class Monday.

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