The pandemic is changing the way children learn, and it could have an impact on their eyes. Before we dive in, let’s switch on our imaginative powers:
Imagine this: It’s a bright sunny day, your 8-year-old daughter wakes up in the morning and gets ready for her class, her online class! She starts her computer and is now glued to the screen from about 9 in the morning until 1 in the noon — Interacting with the teacher, taking notes, etc. Of course, teachers do cut them slack for about 15 mins in between and then back to the routine. Now that’s 4 hours of screen time.
It’s lunchtime and maybe your daughter insists on watching cartoons after a heavy study day. As a parent, you might think she deserves it and put on the TV for her – maybe for an hour or 2. Add another 2 hours of screen time to the above 4 hours and that’s now 6 hours of screen time.
Then maybe a quick nap.
What next? Maybe your child wants to use the mobile device to play games and also complete the homework due tomorrow. Or maybe she wants to video call and chat with her grandparents.
Well, you see what’s happening here?
There is no escaping screen time in today’s world, and the COVID-19 pandemic has seen children inside and engaging in screen-based learning more than ever before. Not only are we using screens for education and learning, but we are using them for recreation and family talksk too. Spending close to 8 hours per day!
The result – Digital eye strain and a myriad of other health concerns along with it.
In this article, we will briefly discuss screen time and the rise in myopic cases in Children.
Let’s understand Myopia:
Myopia is the weakness of seeing things clearly unless they’re relatively close to the eyes. Also termed as nearsightedness or shortsightedness, myopia is the most common refractive issue among children and young adults.
Myopia occurs when the eye grows too long from front to back, causing light to come to a focus in front of the retina instead of directly on it.
While spectacles can correct a child’s eyesight, research shows that having critical myopia puts children at risk for a number of other eye problems as they grow, including retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration.
The prevalence of myopia among children ages 6-19 years is estimated at about 40% in Europe and North America, and higher in Asia. These countries are also the highest consumers of screen time. Research is still in progress on the link between screen time and myopia.
Discussing the concerning impact of increased screen time on the eyes, a leading ophthalmologist from India, Dr Shroff says, “Children who attend online classes clearly have no escape, but there are certain things that parents can do to minimise the harm. Parents need to understand that smaller and brighter screens are bad. They should make children sit in a bright room, preferably with a desktop or a laptop.” He further adds that children who are younger than 2 years should avoid screen time altogether. “Screen dependence at an early age can lead to development and speech delays. Additionally, it tends to decrease their attention span and socialising pattern.”
Dr Shroff recommends children, as well as adults, ensure they have proper lighting coming from the background while using the screen; also their monitors should not have bright light, it should be medium. They should use blue light filters to prevent damage to the eyes.
During the pandemic, there has been an increase in cases of Myopia. Parents have reported increased watering, redness, irritation in their children’s eyes. This is also because there is less exposure to sunlight, children are being affected with refractive disorders.
As parents, it is very important to slow the damage and to do this, monitoring your child’s screen time is important.
What can you do to limit screen time?
- Build an eye-healthy lifestyle at home – Teach your children the ill effects of screen time and how it can cause damage not just now but when growing old as well
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule – Make sure your child is taking a 20-second break from the screen every 20 minutes and look 20 feet away.
- Eye-care is important – Consume proper nutritions. Omega 3 fatty acids help in eye health, consult the ophthalmologist before medication yourself. Children should have a Vitamin A rich diet.
- Getting outdoors – Some studies recommend spending time outdoors. It may be able to slow the start and progression of myopia. This will also reduce screen time as children will be engrossed in outdoor activities. Make sure to maintain social distancing and wear a mask, always.
- Use parental control apps – Using parental control apps to control screen time has been the best way to curb screen time for children and keep their eye health intact.
Make sure you are following these simple guidelines to keep your child’s eye health in check. Let’s reduce screen time and the rise in myopic cases.