Children spend more time than ever staring at digital screens—on computers, tablets, TVs, smartphones, and other devices. All that screen time can take a toll on children’s wellbeing, including the health and development of their eyes.
Research published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, shows that children begin zooming in on digital media devices, such as their parents’ tablets or smartphones, as young as 6 months old. By their teens, studies have found, kids spend nearly 7 hours a day using screened-based media, watching TV, playing video games, and using social media. This doesn’t include additional time spent using screens at school and for homework. In addition to being a risk factor in developing myopia, spending too much time on digital devices also limits physical activity, which can lead to developmental problems that may affect children later in life.
Myopia is increasing at an alarming rate.
The more time spent staring at screens, the higher the chance of developing vision-related problems. Myopia or nearsightedness (where distance vision is blurry) is a common vision problem that often begins between the ages of 6 and 14. It affects up to 5% of preschoolers, about 9% of school aged children, and nearly 30% of adolescents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. Myopia is on the rise at an alarming rate and has been linked to the increased use of electronic devices in children’s lives.
Symptoms of myopia include:
- Complaints of blurry vision (like not being able to see the board in school)
- Squinting to try to see better
- Frequent eye rubbing
- Frequent headaches
What is Myopia Management?
Myopia cannot be reversed or cured, but it can be treated with Myopia Management. In a Myopia Management program, the goals of treatment are to improve your child’s vision and prevent it from getting worse. This is important for protecting their eye health in the future, even if they still need glasses or contact lenses.
Could the Myopia Management program benefit my child?
If you answer yes to any of the questions below, it’s possible your child could benefit from the Myopia Management program. A full evaluation with a myopia specialist is necessary to determine candidacy and the best steps moving forward.
- Is your child between the ages of 7 and 12 and been diagnosed with Myopia?
- Does your child squint to see distance objects better?
- Is your child in glasses as a pre-teen?
- Has your child needed a new glasses prescription more than once a year?
- Are both parents nearsighted (have difficulty seeing distance objects without glasses or contacts)?
For more information about Myopia Management, please click here. Dr. Nicole Sheffer at Northwest Eye evaluates and treats patients with myopia at the St. Anthony, Wayzata, and Woodbury locations. To schedule a routine exam or a Myopia Management Evaluation, click here or call (763) 416-7600.
What are some ways parents can help battle the negative effects of screen time?
- Monitor screen time. Two especially important aspects of this are making sure screens don’t cut into your child’s sleep or exercise routine. Not getting enough shut eye leads to tired, sore eyes.
- Take frequent breaks. Children frequently get so absorbed in what they’re doing that they don’t notice symptoms of eye strain. Remind them to take breaks! The American Optometric Association recommends the 20/20/20 rule: look away from the screen every 20 minutes, focus on an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
- Get regular vision screenings. If your child is having blurry vision or similar eye problems, he or she may not speak up. That’s why regular vision screenings are important. The American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend children have their eyes checked by a pediatrician at well-child visits beginning at birth.
Be Eye Wise and make sure your eyes are healthy and protected for the spring months ahead! Because the more you know, the better you see.