How does screen time affect my child’s eyes and decrease their chances of having myopia?
Your child uses their eyes very differently than you did at their age. Most kids spend four or more hours a day looking at screens. Schools use tablets and computers for lessons, and when kids come home, they relax by looking at tablets, phones, and computer games. It’s no wonder that myopia, also known as nearsightedness, has doubled in the past fifty years. We are also seeing this increase at Complete Vision Care, and it is clear that how we use our eyes contributes to the problem.
Nearsightedness in children generally leads to stronger and stronger glasses every year. The younger a child is when they get their first prescription, the more likely they will end up highly nearsighted as an adult. This puts them into a class that has a significantly increased risk of sight-threatening problems such as retinal detachments and glaucoma.
Factors that contribute to nearsightedness are both genetic and environmental. Having at least one parent who is nearsighted will increase the risk of myopia. Children who were on lockdown and spent most of their day on screens showed a substantial increase in nearsightedness.
Additionally, children are now commonly seen with dry eye disease, which was unheard of until a few years ago. Kids tend to stare and not blink as often while looking at screens, which makes the tear film become compromised. This makes extended nearsighted work very uncomfortable.
Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. There are four easy ways to slow this epidemic of nearsightedness among young people.
Get outside! Did you know that your child’s risk of myopia decreases by 3% for every hour each week spent outdoors? Natural light and increasing distance viewing are highly beneficial. Participating in sports and increasing outdoor play is something kids naturally accept and is good for their eyes, bodies, and sense of well-being.
The 20/20/20 rule: When doing extended near work on screens, every 20 minutes look at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This relaxes the focusing muscles of the eye. Your child will feel less strain, have more visual endurance, and less irritation from computer work.
Blink! One of the easiest things we can do is teach children to blink thoroughly and regularly. Simply closing the eyes for a few seconds allows the eye to rehydrate. This works well for adults too, who may be experiencing dryness.
Get care as soon as possible: Regular eye care is essential to identify potential eye strain causes and increase visual efficiency. If your child is at risk, therapies are available, which most often include daily eye drops, specialized lenses, or eye exercises.
So remember to let kids go have some fun in the sun!