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Myopia Becoming more Common in Young Children


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As technology continues to advance, digital screens have become an integral part of our daily lives. However, the increased exposure to screens, especially in young children aged 1 to 3, has raised concerns about its potential impact on eye health, specifically myopia, also known as nearsightedness. In this blog post, we will explore the link between screen time and myopia development in young children, the risks involved, and practical steps parents can take to protect their children's vision.


The Association Between Screen Time and Myopia


Numerous studies have investigated the association between screen time and myopia in children. A systematic review published in the Ophthalmic Physiol Opt revealed that digital screen time is considered a potential modifiable environmental risk factor that can increase the risk of myopia[2]. While the prevalence of myopia has been increasing even before the widespread use of digital devices, recent studies suggest that screen time might have an added effect on myopia development[2].


Moreover, a study conducted by researchers and eye health experts from multiple countries, including Singapore, Australia, China, and the UK, found a significant link between high levels of smart device screen time and a higher risk of myopia in children and young adults[4]. The study analyzed more than 3,000 studies and revealed that excessive screen time, such as looking at mobile phones or computers, is associated with around a 30% higher risk of myopia[4]. When combined with excessive computer use, that risk rose to around 80%[4].



Effects of Screen Time on Young Children's Eyes


Excessive screen time in young children under 12 months of age can lead to various eye problems and discomforts. One of the common issues is eye fatigue, which is characterized by eye discomfort, dimness of vision, and headaches[8]. Glare on the screen can further strain their eyes, making them more susceptible to discomforts. Young children may complain of headaches, eye pain, or feeling tired after extended screen exposure[8].


Screen Time Guidelines for Young Children

Considering the risks associated with excessive screen time, it is essential for parents to set realistic limits and guidelines for their young children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero hours of screen time for children under 18 months[3]. For children aged 18 to 24 months, limited screen time under adult co-viewing supervision is advised[3]. For children aged 2 to 5 years, screen time should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality educational programming, again with adult co-viewing[3].


Protecting Young Children's Vision


To protect young children's vision from the adverse effects of screen time, parents can implement the following strategies:


Limit Screen Time: Stick to the recommended screen time guidelines and ensure that young children have plenty of time for other activities, such as outdoor play and reading books.


Create a Screen-Friendly Environment: Adjust screen brightness, font size, and position the screen at an appropriate distance to reduce eye strain.


Encourage Outdoor Play: Spending time outdoors has been associated with a reduced risk of myopia. Encourage young children to play outside regularly.


Practice the 20/20/20 Rule: Encourage young children to take a break from the screen every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.


Regular Eye Check-ups: Schedule regular eye check-ups with a pediatric optometrist to detect any vision issues early on and receive appropriate guidance.



Conclusion


While digital screens provide numerous benefits, excessive screen time can pose a risk to young children's eye health, potentially leading to myopia development. By implementing screen time guidelines, creating a vision-friendly environment, and encouraging outdoor play, parents can take proactive steps to protect their young children's vision and ensure healthy eye development.


FAQs

Can my 2-year-old use digital screens? According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, screen time for children aged 2 to 5 should be limited to one hour per day of high-quality educational programming under adult co-viewing supervision[3].

How can I protect my 1-year-old's eyes from screen time? For children under 18 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero hours of screen time[3]. Focus on engaging activities that do not involve screens and prioritize outdoor play and reading.

What are the signs of eye strain in young children? Signs of eye strain in young children may include complaints of headaches, eye pain, feeling tired, or rubbing their eyes frequently after prolonged screen exposure[8].

Can my child's myopia be reversed? Myopia progression can often be managed and slowed down using various methods, such as orthokeratology or atropine treatment. It is essential to consult an eye care professional for personalized recommendations[9].

How can I encourage my child to play outdoors more? Make outdoor activities fun and engaging for your child by participating in outdoor games, sports, and nature walks together. Limit screen time and offer alternatives like going to the park or playing with friends outside.


  1. Lanca, Carla et al. "The association between digital screen time and myopia: A systematic review." Ophthalmic Physiol Opt, vol. 40, no. 2, 2020, pp. 216-229. DOI: 10.1111/opo.12657. [2]

  2. "Childhood myopia screen time." Weston Contact Lens, URL.

  3. "How Too Much Screen Time Affects Kids’ Eyes: Tips to Prevent Eye Strain." Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), URL.

  4. "Can too much screen time hurt my child’s vision? - MyMyopia." MyMyopia, URL.

  5. "Screen time guidelines for children - resources for eye care practitioners | Myopia Profile." Myopia Profile, URL.

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