Excessive use of technology among college students could cause vision problems

Photo Illustation by Tanya Moutzalias/Staff Photographer Fowlerville senior Nick Kilpela stares into a computer screen altered with a tinted screen shade. The downloadable app adjusts the color output of the computer to help users' sensitive eyes.

The most recent American Optometric Association survey found 68 percent of young adults reported “technology-related eye or vision problems."

The 2010 “American Eye-Q” survey, which looks at eye care in the United States, identified this condition as Computer Vision Syndrome.

Excessive use of technology including TV, computers, smart phones and tablets can have an impact on vision, said optometrist Karisa Ritter of Pearle Vision.

“The prolonged use of stuff like that definitely can cause eye strain and headaches,” Ritter said.

She said extensive screen use can also cause dry eyes because of less blinking when looking at a screen.

“The closer you look at something, the harder your eyes have to work,” Ritter said.

Clarkston freshman Nick Loomis estimated he easily spends between three to four hours per day in front of screens. Loomis said he thinks his recent poor vision correlates to this.

“When I was younger, I never had contacts or glasses, (and) now I absolutely need them to see,” he said. “I personally think my vision has declined since I got to Central because of all the computer, TV and video game use.”

Loomis said he spends most of his free time playing video games, ranging from first-person shooters like "Call of Duty," to family-oriented games like "Mario Party."  He falls asleep watching TV, which he estimated he views about half an hour each night.

“I’ll be staring at the screen for a while, and then my eyes will feel strained, and I have to look away,” Loomis said.

Electrical Engineering Professor Qin Hu said there is a difference between LCD displays and CRT displays, commonly found in older TV sets.

A CRT scans the TV screen at a set frequency to create an image, causing a “flicker rate,” which easily fatigues the eyes, Hu said.

“I don't let my kids use the computer for more than half an hour at a time; I don't want them to get near-sighted,” she said.

LCD screens are easier on the eyes, because they aren't expanding and contracting at a high frequency level, Hu said.

Ritter said people should take breaks for their eyes when they use technology.

“I would say follow what's called the 20/20 rule: if you use it for 20 minutes, take 20 seconds of rest,” Ritter said.


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