Children are often affected by things that we as adults barely consider. As children grow and learn, environmental factors play a large role in their ability to function under certain circumstances. Lighting is one of the factors that influences a child's ability to focus and affects children's behavior. While fluorescent lighting is the standard form of lighting in schools and other public buildings, it may not be the most beneficial for children.
Why Fluorescent Lighting is Used
According to the US Department of Energy's website, fluorescent light bulbs use 67-75 percent less energy than incandescent bulbs. They also last about 10 times longer. Being more energy efficient, fluorescent tube lights are most often used in large indoor areas. Compared to incandescent bulbs, fluorescent lights create less direct glare and provide adequate lighting for schools, offices, stores and other buildings.
Fluorescent Lighting in Schools
It's a proven fact that there is a link between a child's learning performance and environmental elements such as light, room design, use of color, temperature, sound enhancement and instructional design. For years, most schools have used traditional-style fluorescent lights in classrooms and hallways. However, research has shown that fluorescent lights can induce bodily stress, hyperactivity and attention problems. These factors often lead to poor learning performance in children. Fluorescent lighting in the classroom has also been linked to increased depression among older elementary students.
Children with Sensory Processing Disorders
Fluorescent lighting greatly effects the behavior of children with autism, ADHD and other disorders often associated with sensory integration issues. When a child has problems with sensory integration, experiences involving noise, light and sound can be intensified to the point where they are overwhelming. Though most people don't notice, fluorescent lights send out pulsing vibrations that can affect children with sensory disorders. One researcher found that fluorescent light caused an increase in repetitive behaviors in children with autism. Fluorescent lighting can also increase the chances that a child with a sensory disorder will act out and exhibit undesired behaviors in response to being visually overstimulated.
Alternative to Fluorescent Lighting
The human body is designed to respond most to the natural light that the sun provides. It is not always possible to use natural light, but there is another alternative to using fluorescent lights. Full-spectrum lights have been created to emit light in all visible wave lengths, making them a closer representation to sunlight than traditional fluorescent lights. Children who learn under full spectrum lighting have been found to experience less stress and anxiety, improved behavior, attitude and health and increased academic performance and achievement.