LAST_UPDATESun, 22 Jul 2018 9am

Can Tablet Computers Ruin Your Children’s Eyesight?

There a significant effects on young children when they use tablet computers. Pic: Google ImagesThere a significant effects on young children when they use tablet computers. Pic: Google ImagesBACK in the day, handheld video games such as Tamagotchi and Gameboy were the ‘it’ things that parents used to keep their children entertained. To some extent, these devices were considered inanimate ‘babysitter’ for their young children.

But today, if you give these classic machines to young children, they will find them to be far less superior than what they are equip with now. These days, their inanimate babysitter role has been relegated to a more modern device –tablet computers of many sizes that are built with big HD-screen.

With these tablets, they get to upload their favorite game applications that they get to play with for hours. Not only the device is meant for games, it is also used for growing children to watch YouTube and some even learn the skill to take ‘selfie’ photos of themselves using the tablets.  

With modern parents getting more occupied with longer working hours, a lot of them have become dependent on tablet computers to help babysit their children. But the repercussion is; this has created a generation of children who spend hours staring at their tablets.

As a matter of fact, as much as tablet computers have been proven to be ‘effective’ device to distract young children, this invention does pose a great threat to your children’s eyesight health.

How does a tablet affect your child’s vision?

These days, it is quite common to see young children wearing a pair of thick glasses and this made you wonder, how a child can have such bad vision at a very young age?

Too young to wear glasses? Pic: www.fecvision.comToo young to wear glasses? Pic: www.fecvision.comVision problem is becoming one of the popular negative impacts among children who have prolonged exposure to tablet computers.  

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s (UKM) Faculty of Sciences’ Dr. Mizhanim Mohamad Shahimin (From the Division of Optometry & Vision Sciences) said parents should be quick to spot the signs of bad eye sight in their children.

Mizhanim explained, the most common symptoms for children with vision problem include double and blurry vision, excessive eye-rubbing and eye-squinting as well as abnormal head position they adopt upon staring at something (apart from watching or reading in a close position).

She said that the common eye problems among children due to excessive exposure to tablet computers are refractive errors such as Myopia (near/short sighted), Hyperopia (far/long sighted) and astigmatism (glaring vision).

“All these sight problems can result in these kids wearing spectacles,” said Mizhanim.

Other serious eye problems that can arise from extreme use of tablet computers are Amblyopia, which a decrease in the child’s vision and Strabismus (cross eye) that may cost a permanent visionary loss on some if not treated.

Longer use of tablet computers may also induce a condition called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). CVS can trigger headaches, eyestrain, hyper sensitivity to light, blurred vision as well as neck and shoulder pain.  

Constant exposure on 3D movies can worsen the situation even more. A study done in the UK in 2010 has indicated that continuous use of tablet computers combined with 3D movie might lead to a binocular vision problem among children.

Mizhanim said a study conducted by UKM also found that children’s visual parameters does increase after spending 30 minutes of playing 3D game play on their tablets.

Damaging for the mind too

University Malaya’s Early Childhood Education Centre’s Director, Associate Professor Dr. Mariani Md Nor said parenting style today has changed compared to those days. Modern parents in urban community have to succumb to a demanding work life which ‘disturbs’ their task at home. Most often than not, when parents are busy with work, they have to ‘replenish’ their lost time by giving tablet computers to their children.

Uncontrolled use of tablet computers can also affect the children’s concentration and focus in school as well as cultivating an unhealthy lifestyle for the kids.

“They will have poor time management and develop an eating problem. Some are even unable to socialise well with their friends due to over-expose to tablet computers,” said Mariani.

Dr. Mariani advised parents to allow their children spend more time outdoor. Pic: Google ImagesDr. Mariani advised parents to allow their children spend more time outdoor. Pic: Google ImagesThe parenting expert also said that when tablets are optimise as a child’s babysitter, this can result in the child being out of touch with reality and may deteriorates the child’s interest in spending time doing outdoor activities.

Mariani advised parents that by allowing their children to spend some quality time outdoor, their soft skills such as being tolerant and patient can be promoted.

“But it is not all negative. Tablet computer does have its positive effects… for example it encourages the development of cognitive learning that is beneficial for a child’s analytical skills. Tablets can also foster creativity potential in kids and if the use is controlled, it can help improve eye, hand and mental coordination over a period of time,” she said.

My iPad, My Babysitter

Twahirah Ghani, 25, admits that iPad is her children’s babysitter. The device helps keep her two young children, Tisha Hasina, 3, and, Hazrat Haqq, 8 months, occupied when she’s busy running her daily errands.

“I first gave my daughter an iPad when she was as 1 year-old. I read a research that says this can help stimulate pre-school children’s senses and imagination. This is made possible through the visuals and sounds and I consider this a modern way of encouraging your child’s growth,” said the young mother.

“But I limit my son’s iPad use because he is still very young,” she continued.  

While tablet computers may be an entertainment device for her children where they can watch movies and play games, Twahirah said she does download educational applications such as “Endless Reader”, “Baby Bus” and “Doctor Panda” for her children to play with. These applications teach her children alphabets, vocabulary and spelling.

“Tisha is a fast learner, she began to talk as early as 2-years-old and now she can operate the iPad independently. Sometimes, we bond using the device where I would show her cartoons with dialogue and teach her new words using these cartoons,” she said.

“It’s a useful tool to teach your kids and it is easy compared to old, conventional flash cards,” said Twahirah.

Hazrat watching his older sister, Tisha playing with the iPad. Pic: mDHazrat watching his older sister, Tisha playing with the iPad. Pic: mDHowever the mother of two notices that her daughter is starting to blink more often. This she believes was due to her daughter’s tablet’s usage in dark rooms. To tackle the problem, Twahirah adjust the brightness of the tablet accordingly.

Both Twahirah and her husband put an emphasis on ensuring a proper control on their children’s tablet uses. They control the content viewable to their children and they monitor the usage period too.

Tips for parents

In this modern day, it is quite impossible for parents to make tablet computers inaccessible to their children. This is very likely given that they too utilise the tablet computers themselves.

But parents can reduce the negative impacts of tablet computers by monitoring the usage period and by setting a specific time frame in a day where their children are allowed to use the tablets. Contents made available to the children must be thoroughly thought out so young children will not be open to inappropriate media sites.

And most importantly, it is the parents who are responsible to guarantee the child’s good eyesight. For children who are often have tablet computers in their hands, it is advisable for parents to bring the children to do their regular eye check-up.

Other than that, they too can opt for some simple technical adjustments such as by using a screen protector that can reduce glare, set a proper brightness for the screen display and always remind their children to keep the tablets at a comfortable distance.