Small Adjustments Can Make a Big Difference on the Visual Demands Students Face in the Classroom

American Optometric Association offers tips to help students make the most out of high-tech classrooms

07 Aug, 2012, 08:00 ET from American Optometric Association

ST. LOUIS, Aug. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- How many hours a day do children spend on computers or other electronic devices?  New data from the American Optometric Association's (AOA) 2012 American Eye-Q® consumer survey indicates 60 percent of parents estimate their children spend up to four hours per day at home or in school looking at a computer or digital device screen.  With smartboards, tablets and other digital tools being incorporated into daily school curriculums, the technology has students spending much of their time learning and socializing in front of a screen.

"While these high-tech classrooms can greatly enhance learning, they can pose a number of challenges to the visual system," said Geoffrey Goodfellow, O.D., AOA spokesperson and attending optometrist in the Pediatrics/Binocular Vision Service at the Illinois College of Optometry.  "Many of these issues can be solved with frequent breaks, proper set up of computer screens and yearly, comprehensive eye exams by a doctor of optometry."

Continuous or prolonged use of technology can lead to computer vision syndrome (CVS), which may include eye strain, headaches, fatigue, burning or tired eyes, loss of focus, blurred vision, double vision or head and neck pain.  Pre-existing, uncorrected vision problems like farsightedness and astigmatism, difficulty with focusing or eye coordination can also contribute to discomfort associated with computer vision syndrome.

Parents and teachers can help students avoid CVS by encouraging them to follow the 20-20-20 rule. When using technology or doing near work, take a 20-second break, every 20 minutes, and view something 20 feet away. Studies show that people need to rest their eyes to keep them moist. Plus, staring off into the distance helps the eyes from locking into a close-up position.

According to the most recent AOA American Eye-Q® survey, 79 percent of parents are concerned that their child may be damaging their eyes due to technology use.  Dr. Goodfellow explains, "Since these new classroom devices are so compelling to students, they tend to stare at them and use them for hours at a time, which fatigues their visual system.  So, in addition to breaks, holding screens at the right height and distance is extremely important."

The following AOA guidelines can help prevent or reduce eye and vision problems associated with computer vision syndrome:

  • Check the height and arrangement of the computer. According to optometrists, a computer screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 or 5 inches) as measured from the center of the screen and held 20 to 28 inches away from the eyes.
  • Check for glare on the computer screen. If possible, windows or other light sources should not be directly visible when sitting in front of the monitor. If this happens turn the desk or computer to prevent glare on the screen.
  • Reduce the amount of lighting in the room to match the computer screen. A lower-wattage light can be substituted for a bright overhead light or a dimmer switch may be installed to give flexible control of room lighting.
  • Keep blinking. To minimize the chances of developing dry eye when using a computer or digital device, make an effort to blink frequently. Blinking keeps the front surface of the eye moist.

Most importantly, as part of the yearly, back-to-school checklist, students should see a doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination to ensure their eyes are healthy and functioning properly.  The American Eye-Q® survey revealed 51 percent of parents do not include a visit to the eye doctor as part of their child's back-to-school routine.  Doctors of optometry can conduct specific tests that address and diagnose CVS and other vision and eye health issues, which include:

  • Measuring visual acuity (sharpness and clarity) to assess the extent to which vision may be impaired.
  • Checking to detect and correct nearsightedness, farsightedness or astigmatism.
  • Testing how the eyes focus, move and work together.

"Early detection and treatment are key in correcting vision problems and helping students see clearly," said Dr. Goodfellow.

To find an optometrist in your area, or for additional information on children's vision and the importance of back-to-school eye exams, please visit Or, for more information, download the American Optometric Association's public health report See Well Learn Well: 3D in the Classroom.

About the American Eye-Q® survey:
The seventh annual American Eye-Q® survey was created and commissioned in conjunction with Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates (PSB). From May 9 – 16, 2012, using an online methodology, PSB conducted 1,009 online interviews among Americans 18 years and older who embodied a nationally representative sample of U.S. general population. (Margin of error at 95 percent confidence level)

About the American Optometric Association (AOA):
The American Optometric Association represents approximately 36,000 doctors of optometry, optometry students and paraoptometric assistants and technicians. Optometrists serve patients in nearly 6,500 communities across the country, and in 3,500 of those communities are the only eye doctors.  Doctors of optometry provide two-thirds of all primary eye care in the United States.

American Optometric Association doctors of optometry are highly qualified, trained doctors on the frontline of eye and vision care who examine, diagnose, treat and manage diseases and disorders of the eye. In addition to providing eye and vision care, optometrists play a major role in a patient's overall health and well-being by detecting systemic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

Prior to optometry school, optometrists typically complete four years of undergraduate study, culminating in a bachelor's degree. Required undergraduate coursework for pre-optometry students is extensive and covers a wide variety of advanced health, science and mathematics. Optometry school consists of four years of post-graduate, doctoral study concentrating on both the eye and systemic health. In addition to their formal training, doctors of optometry must undergo annual continuing education to stay current on the latest standards of care. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Madonna Duncan

SOURCE American Optometric Association