In our days; our parents used to warn us about sitting too close to TV can harm our eyes. Another common problems we used to have is reading in the dark can harm our eyes. In this generation, it is even tougher to “unglue” our children’s eyes to the screen or near work.
We have come across many young children with myopia (shortsightedness or inability to see things clearly at distance), headaches, eyestrain, and poor back or neck posture in our eye practice in the last few years. It is even tougher with introduction of ipad and laptop at school as the children may yearn for ipad or other screen use especially during school holiday.
It is indeed hard to say whether the ipad or other screentime causes myopia/ other eye issues; as genetic may also have a role. However; it is evident that more eye problems arise from children who are glued to any screens such as phone, ipad, tablet and TV. Of course our eyes can adapt well to focus at close distance but our eyes are not built to spend too much time doing it. Another problem that may arise from screentime is dry eyes as our eyes do not blink as frequently while watching something on the screen.
Even more worrying, the screen we use daily emits blue light; this can be harmful in prolonged use especially in children’s retina as they absorb more blue light compared to adult’s eyes. Researches have shown that there is correlation between prolonged screentime with early onset of myopia (shortsightedness) or hyperopia (longsightedness). More often than not, children are not aware that they have any eye issues; thus it is parents’ responsibility to take the children to have their eyes checked regularly (at least once a year) to the optometrist or ophthalmologist.
It is impossible to completely rule out screentime in our children’s daily life; however if we follow some general rule. To limit its negative effect; children (and adults) should limit screentime to 20-20-20 (after 20 minutes, take a break for 20 seconds to look at an object 20 feet away) and we should not let our children sit too close to a screen as well (3/4 of an arm’s length) as using screen in a well lit room.
Eating healthy and spending time outdoors or getting your children to be actively involved in other activities also help especially during school holiday.
Sonya Wijaya (B. Optom. PG. Spec. Cert. Cont. Lenses/ Ther. Endorsed) is an optometrist who practices in Optical In Sight (Doncaster East VIC) www.opticalinsight.com.au