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News for Southeastern Arizona, provided by the University of Arizona School of Journalism

Eye killing is the new pastime of the 21st century

University of Arizona student Catherine Lowe ’17 falls into the technology trap by putting herself at risk for future eye problems.

The children of the 21st century have a new nickname: vision killers. They are the first generation to grow up in this technological world, but this so called “access” has its downfall. All this screen-time can lead to long-term eye health problems.

In 2014, research group Millward Brown, found that a typical multiscreen user absorbs seven hours of screen media per day during a five-hour-period.

This compares to a study done in 1995 by another research firm, Childwise, where on average, children spent a little under three hours in front of a screen.

“Long term, with more and more work [in front of] computers, it increases the chance of myopia,” said local optometrist, Dr. Curtis Dechant, who works for Vision Source Tucson. Myopia usually begins at a young age and is a refractive error where a person can see near objects clearly but distant vision is blurred. He also warns that the short-term effects can be dry eyes, which contributes to myopia.

Another term for increased eyestrain due to too much screen time is Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS is defined by the American Optometric Association as a “complex of eye and vision problems related to near work that are experienced during or related to computer use.”

“The symptoms can vary but mostly include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision, dry and irritated eyes, slow refocusing, neck and backache, light sensitivity, double vision, and color distortion,” wrote Jeffrey Anshel, author of the Visual Ergonomics Handbook, published in 2005.

Children are highly affected by CVS because “children are very adaptable. They assume that what they see and how they see is normal, even if the vision is problematic. Therefore, parents need to monitor their work,” wrote Wimalasundera, in his 2006 article Computer Vision Syndrome. Children also tend to use the computer for extended hours without giving themselves, or their eyes a break.

The best way to combat CVS is to practice the 20/20/20 rule proposed by Jack Dennerlein. Dennerlein is an adjunct professor of ergonomics and safety at Harvard University as well as a professor in the Department of Physical Therapy, Movement & Rehabilitation Science at Northeastern University.

“It’s a good idea to give your eyes a break. Every 20 minutes look 20 feet away or further for 20 seconds or more,” said Dennerlein.

Rachael Vargas is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at rachaelvargas@email.arizona.edu.

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