Reading those letters of the charts at the optometrist office is fun, but what exactly is the purpose and what can they tell you?

Testing 1, 2, 3.

A VAT refers is a test that measures your eye’s ability to see and read details of a letter or a symbol from a distance. These letters and symbols can come in varying sizes – from really tiny to really huge. Being able to discern these letters and symbols is just one part of determining your overall visual health and your ability to see.

There are many other parts to an eye exam which includes, but is not limited to, history taking, auto-refraction, subjective refraction, a retinoscopy, retinal assessment, colour vision tests, and cover tests. These tests are conducted by a certified optician or an ophthalmologist. Such comprehensive eye exams should be conducted once a year at the minimum to ensure your eyes are developing healthily.

What happens during a typical VAT?

Back to VAT. During a VAT, you can expect to see two different charts, namely the typical Snellen test and the random ‘E’ test.

1. The Snellen test

Of the two, this is probably the one you’re most familiar one. It’s one of those huge boards hung from the wall across you with a bunch of random letters and numbers decreasing in size. You’ve probably seen them during your school health screening (back in the day).

During a Snellen test, you’re seated about 6 metres (20 feet) away from the chart and you have to cover one eye as you read the letters or numbers from the top to the bottom. Your optometrist will ask you to read out as many letters or numbers as you can until you’re unable to decipher them due to their small font size. After completing the test with one eye, you’ll have to restart the whole test again with the other eye (you’ll be given a brand new chart as well).

2. The random’E’ test

Now this one may be unfamiliar to you. This test is rather fun – your optometrist will show you different slides with an ‘E’ on each of them. However, the ‘E’s on each slide will be facing a different direction and you have to point out which direction the ‘E’ is facing – left, right, up or down.

You’ll also be doing this test while looking through a variety of different lenses that your optometrist will place in front of your eye. Your optometrist will constantly keep switching the lenses out to determine if your eyes require prescriptive lenses or not to correct your vision.

Results time.

After going through your tests, your optometrist will present to you your test results. These results will be shown as a fraction out of 20. So, if you’ve received a 20/20, it means you’ve got perfect eyesight! Congratulations! More than that, it means that your eyes are able to see an object clearly from 20 feet away.

However, if your results show a fraction of 20/40, it reveals that your eyes need to be around 20 feet from the object when in actual fact, people would normally need to be 40 feet away from the object. In other words, you’ve got myopia and will likely need prescriptive lenses to help you see further objects properly. Your optometrist will need to have a discussion with you if you require any special treatment and how to care for your eyes.

The importance of eye checks.

Attending regular, annual comprehensive eye checks is important to maintain healthy eyes and keep track of any vision issues you may face. A VAT is just one such test that is conducted during a comprehensive eye check to determine the health of your eyes.

You can book a comprehensive eye check today at planoeyecheck.com. Simply choose your nearest optometrist on the website, sign up, and you’re good to go!

Keeping up with your young ones in the digital 21st Century can prove to be a challenge, but here’s how you can be a parent ready for the digital age.

A new age and a new childhood.

Our children’s childhoods are a world of a difference from the childhood we had. For starters, we didn’t have debates about whether Androids or Apples were better. We didn’t have Instagram to share our photos – we just printed them out and showed them to our friends when they came over to our house!

Today however, their childhood revolves an awful lot around the latest TikTok trends, phone games, and endless hours of YouTube. While we understand that the change in generations warrants the use of technology today, sometimes it’s admittedly difficult to come to terms with the amount of screen time our children are receiving. In fact it’s also not uncommon to find parents in conflict with their child about an acceptable duration of screen time. How much is good enough and how much is too much? Are we being too lenient or too strict with our children’s screen time? These are all but normal questions to ask ourselves as parents of digital natives.

The one thing all parents can definitely agree on is that we want our children to have an amazing childhood. We want them to grow up and look back on these times with fondness. So when we notice them spending their childhoods staring at a tiny screen, we get a little uneasy. Instead of spending hours on screen time, we’d prefer them to go outdoors to run and jump, socialise with other kids at the playground, or spend some quality time together with us painting, playing board games, etc.

You see, our uneasiness doesn’t really stem from the screens themselves, but rather their behaviour and relationship they have with the screens. The screens aren’t inherently bad, it’s how they use them that’s concerning.

Getting tech-ready

It’s the 21st Century, and we’ve got to equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and know-hows to keep up with our 21st-Century children. Information about raising digital natives are aplenty, but here are 3 of the most important steps you need to know of to keep with your digitally-wired kiddos:

1. You have to want to listen to your children

Younger generation and digital devices gadgets concept. Photo of smart clever, understands how to use modern technology shows screen of his telephone to daddy sitting on comfort divan

It may be just a silly little dance video on TikTok to us, but to our kids, it could mean more than that; it could mean bonding with their friends, relieving them of their stress, or just a little fun for them to cut loose and have a laugh. Spark a conversation with your child about their views and to negotiate with them about how they’d like their screen time to be managed – ask them how long they’d prefer to spend on screens, why they think that amount of time is suitable, and how they’d spend the rest of their time off screens.

We want to help manage our children’s screen time and not just dictate how long they can and cannot spend on the screens. Therefore, it’s important to create a two-way conversation that accommodates what you and your child think is an optimal duration of screen time.

2. Talk about what’s right on the web

There’s a whole bounty of content on the web out there nowadays, and as parents, it’s normal to be concerned about the type of content our children may be consuming. The content that our children consume can sometimes directly impact their mental states. This is why it’s important to have a chat with your child about the difference between useful, enriching content and useless, inappropriate content.

Let them know you come from a place of concern and you want them to enjoy themselves online. But you also want them to understand the impact of the content they’re consuming and be more mindful of it.

3. Let them know if you’re installing a parental control app

If you choose to download a parental control app to know more about your child’s screen time, let them know. Be transparent about why you’re installing this app on your child’s phone – it’s not because you don’t trust them or that you want to spy on them, it’s because you want to keep them safe. Gently tell them that you want to make sure they’re not using their devices for too long of a duration. End off by letting them know that you ultimately trust them to learn how to interact responsibly online and use their devices independently.

Parental control apps like plano can run in the background of your child’s phones seamlessly and help to teach your child good device habits. The app will remind your child to take a device break every 30 minutes, and you can even assign specific times when your child isn’t allowed to use his/her device.

The pivot to the new way of life has not been easy, but the takeaways during this stay home period have been truly transformative.

With the daily number of new community cases dropping significantly, Singapore is gearing up to cautiously lift its circuit breaker measures over three phases, starting from 2nd June 2020.

The safe and gradual re-opening of some activities is also being observed by several other countries around the world. While it is too soon to celebrate the end of the pandemic, it is safe to say that we can expect some aspects of our ‘pre-Covid19 lives’ to be restored in the near future.

However, for the most part, I believe that the pandemic has altered much of how we live our lives, including fulfilling our domestic and professional obligations. Pivoting has not been easy, but will most certainly, if not already, inform how many of us will go into the post-lockdown period.

Here are some of my key takeaways from the circuit breaker in Singapore, that I hope to bring with me even after the measures have been lifted.

1. Communication is everything

The last couple of months have hit all of us in different ways. For many entrepreneurs like me, the pandemic has forced us to switch gears and ramp up our efforts at an immense rate. This process has not been easy and is certainly not a one-man task; my team at Plano has been working tirelessly to achieve our strategic objectives.

Communication and collaboration have always been at the heart of this process at Plano. However, in adapting to our new mode of remote working, I found that communication is truly effective when it is frequent and coherent. And this applies to both your face-to-face interactions and your Zoom and Skype conversations.

Quality communication at work helps you achieve a lot: Beyond facilitating work-related meetings, it helps you check in with your team, affirm their individual and collective efforts and encourage their progress. Frequent and coherent communication is essential in ensuring that the team remains tightly knit and continues to work collaboratively like a well-oiled machine, even if they are not physically together.

2. Being physically active is a big part of being mentally keyed in

As many of us have already found out, staying physically active is easier said than done these days. With most of our days spent being cooped up indoors, many of us are in danger of a sedentary lifestyle, spending long hours on our devices. And with that comes a myriad of long-term life-threatening conditions associated with overuse.

Addressing this goes beyond following your routine home workout videos, it also entails remaining physically active while working.

In fact, I found that staying up and about made a world of difference not just to my mental wellbeing but my general ability to focus. I encourage everyone to have frequent breaks, walk or run if you can, stand (or dance) while working – whatever you can to stay active. This does not just apply to remote working, you should incorporate this when you do get back to your regular workstations!

3. Having a ‘can-do’ attitude is essential

The power of staying positive in testing situations like these is unparalleled.

A can-do attitude at the workplace has the ability to boost your team’s morale and encourages everyone in the team to collectively and whole-heartedly work towards a common goal. However, having a positive attitude even when life hands you lemons is a work in progress for many of us, me included. The good news is, like with any habit, it can be developed with a little work. 

If the crisis has taught me one thing, it is that while none of us are immune to its implications, we all have it in us to adapt to the tough situations at hand, develop strategies to pivot and thrive no matter where we are. I am looking forward to taking the lessons I have learnt, the good and the bad, into this new phase in my life!

With so much media content tailored for kids these days, you may be getting frazzled trying to make the right choice for your little one. The good news is, we have 4 simple steps to help you make your decision in no time!

For many of us, limiting our kids’ screen time can be a downright pain in the neck, especially with the current stay-home measures forcing you to find different ways to occupy your kids every waking minute of the day.

You may even be trying to stay on top of these screen time recommendations by the World Health Organisation (WHO):

  1. Infants (less than 1 year): Screen time is not recommended.
  2. Children 1-2 years of age: Sedentary screen time (such as watching TV or videos, playing computer games) is not recommended. For those aged 2 years, sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better. 
  3. Children 3-4 years of age: Sedentary screen time should be no more than 1 hour; less is better.

However, if your plan to implement all these measures has gone out the window and you are just trying to make the best of a testing situation, it is completely understandable, and you are most definitely not alone! In fact, according to our research, parents in Singapore have been seeing an increase in screen time of almost 20% for their little ones during this period.

Beyond just limiting their screen time, adopting a variety of alternative strategies, including curating your kids’ online content is essential to ensure that they make the best use of their time on their devices.

But with the myriad of different online options available for kids, you may be wondering, where do I even start?

Not to worry, we got you covered!

According to the National Institute of Early Childhood Development in Singapore, such media content should check these boxes:

1. Is it engaging?

When it comes to optimising your child’s learning when they are using their online material, ask yourself if the design features of said content are engaging. High quality design features should be engaging rather than distracting. What makes content engaging?

Media content is engaging when your child’s attention is completely focused on a specific learning goal. Ask yourself these basic questions: Is he zoned into completing his tasks for instance, paying attention during an e-book? Or is he getting easily distracted by the ‘loud’ and irrelevant features of the content?

Remember, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to selecting engaging media content for your little one, so it is normal to take a little time to figure out what works best for them!

2. Does it actively involve?

When your kids interact with the tasks presented in media content in question, are they challenging them to be hands on with their content and explore further?

Think back to the last piece of online content you chose for your kids. A high-quality game or digital book or even video would encourage them be mentally keyed in. That means that your child is taking the time and the mental effort to interact with their technology. For example, games that encourage your child to put on his thinking cap and consider his next moves actively are indicative of being ‘high-quality.’

Conversely, if you find that your child is only physically active but mentally passive i.e. swiping furiously but mindlessly, that piece of content is not one that actively involves.

3. Is it meaningful?

In other words, is the online content relatable to your child? What exactly makes something relatable?

Content that is considered relatable introduces new concepts within a context that your little one is already familiar with. For example, a meaningful educational content with the learning objective of new vocabulary is ‘high-quality’ when your it incorporates these new words into a story setting with characters that your child is familiar with. Are you sourcing for content that can teach your child new animal names? Use a piece of content that achieves this through a story about farm animals!

4. Can it be social?

A ‘social’ piece of content transcends the screen. This means that it encourages your child to talk about the concepts they have learnt or even observed with the people around them.

The FINAL Step.

Beyond these 4 steps, there is one final step that only you as a parent can complete: facilitate an environment that empowers your children to find the right balance!

That means inculcating in them good device habits that will allow them to develop a healthy relationship with their technology from an early age. As they continue to ‘grow up digital,’ staying actively involved in teaching them all the right ways to use technology while avoiding its pitfalls will make a world of difference to their lives! It can be a long journey, but remember, your kids’ childhood years are fleeting, so be sure to enjoy the ride every step of the way!

That one app that’s been occupying all our children’s time and attention this stay home season – what exactly is it and are there dangers that we should be aware of?

It’s TikTok O’clock.

You’ve probably seen your child dancing in front of his/her phone for hours perfecting what looks like an overly complicated choreography set for a 15-second video.

“What are you doing?”

“Mom, it’s TikTok.”

Yes, TikTok – a trend that’s sweeping across the world. Social media users are jumping on to this bandwagon as fast as lightning, and even celebrities and influencers are riding on this wave. But what exactly is it besides an app that’s pre-occupying all your child’s time?

TikTok is essentially a video-sharing application and users can record, edit, and share their videos. The app comes with some of the trendiest songs in the music scene that users can dance and lip sync to. Along with the app comes trends like the #woah trend, the #yummy trend, the #thisismyvoice trend, the #wasian trend, and the list goes on. And it’s likely your child has participated in these trends as well.

The app is largely fun, entertaining, and not to mention addictive which explains why users expend hours of time on TikTok. But are there risks to being on the video sharing platform?

What do I have to be aware of?

As parents, we’re all concerned about our children’s safety online in today’s digital world. From Instagram to now TikTok, we’ve got a lot of fronts we have to be aware of. Here are 3 things parents ought to know about TikTok:

1. Anyone can send messages to anyone

Yes, by anyone that includes strangers too. If your child does not have a private account on TikTok, complete strangers can send him/her messages any time.

2. Suggestive content

With the internet, you can find a plethora of suggestive content and TikTok is no exception. As TikTok is largely a music-based application, some of the songs that are hosted on the app contain profanities. However, the app does label some themes as 16+ to warn users.

3. The ‘digital well-being’ setting

One of the best things about TikTok is the ‘digital well-being’ setting. Once toggled on, parents can also use this control to put restrictions on their child’s TikTok account.

So besides the ‘digital well-being’ setting on the app, what else can we parents do to protect our children online?

1. Strike a conversation with them

If you notice your child spending his/her time dancing in front of the phone, casually ask him/her what they’re up to. Learn more about what they’re doing first before jumping the gun. After that, you can slowly build up and let them know about your concerns as a parent – from privacy to safety concerns. Let them know not to accept any messages from strangers, and teach them how to be discerning about the content they consume.

2. Try parental control apps

TikTok has its own in-app parental controls, but sometimes it can be difficult to get into your child’s TikTok account to toggle those controls yourself. If you notice your child spending far too much time on TikTok, you can consider turning to other parental control apps for help.

The plano app is one such app that can help you to set device times on your child’s phone. For instance, you can schedule a no-device time during dinner or homework time so that your child won’t be able to use his/her device during that duration of time. You can even block certain apps on your child’s phone using the plano app if you notice your child spending excessive amounts of time on a particular app.

And if you need to regain control when you most need it, the plano app also comes with a remote locking function. You can use this as a last-ditch option to remotely lock him/her out of his/her device if your child just can’t seem to peel his/her eyes away from his/her device.

At the end of the day, our child’s online safety is our top priority and we want the best for them. Here at plano, we want to help keep your child safe online too.

For all Singaporean parents, if you download the plano app any time from now till 1 June 2020, you will enjoy a FREE annual subscription of the plano app! The annual subscription of the plano app comes with the entire list of functions of features that you may find here.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

While eye drops provide a quick and easy fix for dry eyes, it is important to understand what exactly is making them feel dry in the first place, in order to find an effective treatment in the long-term. 

The sharp glare of the screen

As a father of a 10-year old boy who loves playing video games, I’m careful about how much time he spends on them. If he had his way, he’d be on his smartphone from dusk until dawn. I love the fact that he can entertain himself for long periods of time and chat to his friends in their virtual worlds. However, it has recently come to my attention that gaming is taking a toll on his health. A few weeks ago, he started complaining about how his eyes often felt sore, dry and itchy.

 Despite getting him some eye drops, they only provided short-term relief and the complaints would begin again the next day. I took it upon myself to do some research into the matter and discovered that he was suffering from digital eye strain (or DES). The various websites I consulted suggested that it is much better in the long-term to tackle the root of the problem, rather than simply soothing the effects with eye drops.

What is digital eye strain?

Digital eye strain (DES) is a common eye condition that is caused by spending too much time on smart devices. When the blue light emitted from the screen enters the eye, it scatters and puts strain on the eye’s ability to focus, causing it to fatigue. Even more, when we hold our smartphones at an angle that is higher than our eyes or simply stare at them for too long, we tend to open them wider and blink less, causing our eyes to dry out and become itchy. This explains why my son was complaining; he was suffering from DES.

Treating symptoms of digital eye strain

Eye drops are commonly used to treat dry eye symptoms of DES as they are relatively cheap and offer a quick fix by re-lubricating the eye. I used eye drops on my son for a while but soon realized that his condition was not improving. While eye drops were good at providing a quick fix, I realized the root of the problem stemmed from the vast amount of time he was spending playing games on his smartphone.

Prevent it, don’t fix it.

Upon researching the condition, I came across many tips on how to use screens in a healthier way. These include: 

  • Taking regular breaks every thirty minutes.
  • Reducing screen time to less than two hours a day.
  • Holding the device at a good distance (at least 30cm from face) and in a good position (20 to 30 degrees below eye level).

The only problem was; how would I convince my eight-year-old son to change his screen behaviors? He gets so much joy out of gaming that I would never want to ban it entirely, however he is resistant to rules and doesn’t like to be told what to do. 

Fortunately,the plano app addresses this challenge. It runs in the background of his smartphone, and can monitor his screen behavior, sending reminders to both of us when he is using his device irresponsibly (e.g. for more than thirty minutes at a time). It also rewards him with points when he demonstrates good behavior (e.g. holding the screen at least 30cm from his face). 

The points he earns can be used in the plano shop to request for fun, device-free activities for him to do, such as football lessons or tree-top climbing sessions. My son loved this points-reward function and instantly took measures to improve his screen behavior; he said, “it’s just like playing a video game, but in real life!”

While it is often tempting to treat digital eye strain with a quick fix (e.g. eye drops), addressing the root of the problem is a much more effective solution in the long-term. With the plano app, my son is able to enjoy playing games, but in a way that is healthy and responsible and free from the painful symptoms of DES.   

For all Singaporean parents, if you download the plano app any time from now till 1 June 2020, you will enjoy a FREE annual subscription of the plano app! The annual subscription of the plano app comes with the entire list of functions of features that you may find here.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

Despite Singapore being known as the myopia capital of the world, there still exist misconceptions about childhood myopia.

Fun, engaging, and accessible – it’s no wonder our kids just love their smartphones. Sometimes, a little too much.

Wrapped around the screen

Our children socialise, learn, and even entertain themselves using those palm-sized devices that transport them to a whole new world. It’s real fun and it gives them a dopamine rush, however, the amount of time they spend on these smartphones can be alarming. You’ve probably seen your children clutching their smart devices from the moment they wake to the moment before they hit the sack, especially during this season when everyone’s confined to their homes.

Now that we don’t have a park or a playground to run to, our children run straight to their phones when they have some free time, multiplying their screen time. You don’t want to deny them of the only free time they have to unwind and relax, but you neither want to see them passing the hours by simply staring at a 2.5 inch x 5.5 inch screen.

Excessive screen time is a major issue in today’s digital world with repercussions spanning from myopia to screen addiction to device over dependency. Plano’s latest research demonstrates that as a result of the current COVID-19 pandemic, screen time has increased from 7.4 hours a day in March to 8.5 hours a day in May amidst stay home measures.

Finding creative solutions

The rapid increase in screen time is alarming, but there are measures we can take to help cut some of those hours off the screen:

1. Intentional device-free time

Make it a point to be away from devices during a certain period of the day to engage in some fun device-free activities with your child. You could make it a habit to spend 3 hours after lunch baking some cookies together, colouring together, or doing a jigsaw puzzle together! Let your child know that for that set duration of time, no devices are allowed and it’s just for you and them to have some fun together.

2. Sunshine stretches

We can’t spend extended hours of time outdoors during this season, however, it’s important not to miss out on some vitamin D. Even if it’s just going by the window for a simple stretch in between hours of device use, your eyes and body will thank you. Remind your children to get off their seats every hour or so and move their body around. They can take an eye break while they’re at it too by looking out the window. So, they can give their backs a good stretch, and relax their eyes at the same time to prevent eye strain!

3. Get in their devices

When your children do need to use their devices, you can use the plano app to help remind them to take device breaks every 30 minutes, and schedule device times! The plano app is the only science-based parental control application that serves to not only manage your child’s screen time, but also prevent the progression of myopia.

If your child follows the eye break reminders consistently, he/she will earn points on the plano app which can be used to request for fun device-free items like NERF Guns and paint sets!

For all Singaporean parents, if you download the plano app any time from now till 1 June 2020, you will enjoy a FREE annual subscription of the plano app! The annual subscription of the plano app comes with the entire list of functions of features that you may find here.

This initiative is our way of showing that as a Plano family, we stand with you in these unprecedented times!

Download plano here to enjoy the full suite of parental control features now unlocked for you!

No, you’re not actually sleepy, your eyes are just tired from a whole day of staring at a screen.

When you see nothing but a screen

We use our devices to work, to play, to socialise, to read, to listen to music, among many other things. Our lives basically revolve around the screen and we unknowingly rack up hours upon hours of screen time – from 9am when we begin work to 11pm when we begin winding down for bed, we’re usually with a screen in front of our eyes.

While we’re using our devices, we may not feel the strain and stress in the moment. But staring at the screen without giving our eyes a little rest can lead to eye fatigue. Even children in Singapore as young as 9 years old spend up to 50 hours a week on screen time. And in America, adults spend up to 12 hours a day in front of a screen. When our eyes are fatigued, we commonly experience the following symptoms:

  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Headaches
  • Light sensitivity
  • Eye twitching
  • Neck and shoulder pain

What can we do then?

There’s no avoiding screens in today’s digital age though – they’re a necessary tool in our daily lives now, especially our children’s. However, we can alleviate these symptoms and help prevent fatigued eyes altogether in 3 simple steps:

1. Take regular eye breaks

Make it a point to keep track of the duration of time you’re spending staring at the screen. Give yourself a 2-minute eye break every half an hour in front of the computer, phone or tablet. These regular eye break intervals are pertinent in helping to relieve Digital Eye Strain (DES) and prevent eye fatigue.

2. Place your devices a good distance away

How near are you to your screen? As a guideline, you should place your smartphones and tablets at least 30cm away from your eyes. If you’re using your laptop or computer, your eyes should be around 26 inches away from the screen. Placing a good distance between your eyes and your screens help to lift the stress off your eyes and keep them healthy. In fact, placing your screens too near your eyes induces near work activity. Spending excessive amounts of time on near tasks can result in the growth of the axial length of the eye which can lead to myopia.

3. Eye drops for immediate relief

If your eyes begin to feel dry and itchy, you can find immediate, temporary relief in the form of lubricating eye drops. These eye drops help bring back some moisture in your eyes therefore alleviating them of discomfort. And if you don’t have access to any lubricating eye drops, you can always heat up a warm towel and create a warm compress to cover over your eyes.

Eye fatigue affects us all

We’ve all been a victim of eye fatigue at least once. But now with the right steps to take, we can begin to prevent it and keep our eyes healthy. If your symptoms persist however, it’s recommended that you visit an optometrist for a thorough check in order to determine what’s causing them.

You can book a comprehensive eye exam for your child today at planoeyecheck.com. Simply choose your nearest optometrist on the website, sign up, and you’re good to go! Let’s all keep our eyes healthy and safe.

The battle against the pandemic rages on. People across the globe in the thick of the stay home measures are seeing much of their lives migrating to the online world. A rise in screen time for both children and adults is the new way of life and is arguably an unavoidable consequence of our lifestyle changes during these unprecedented times.

However, along with the changes in our screen time habits come a myriad of health consequences, some of their effects lasting and irreversible if left unaddressed.

How much has screen time risen by?

Preliminary findings from our cohort in Singapore showed an increase in screen time of almost 20% for both children and adults during this period. This is particularly worrying given that literature has found that even 2-year olds are already spending at least 2 hours in front of screens, with screen time increasing to more than 7 hours in teenagers.

Sleep duration is also affected. In Singapore, our research finds that children are sleeping almost four hours less each week.

The health risks of the new screen time habits

Excessive near-work is one of the most important risk factors for the onset and progression of myopia. Screen-based activities constitute a new form of near-work, and children who use devices tend to do so indoors for long uninterrupted periods with poor posture and at viewing distances closer than conventional books.

Furthermore, as screen time increases, children are spending less time on outdoor activities. This is worrying as outdoor activity has been shown to have a protective effect on myopia development and progression, with research finding that 2 hours of outdoor activity each day reduces the risk and progression of myopia by 10 to 20%.

As such, children who are excessively using their smart devices are at higher risk of developing myopia, which, in some cases, may lead to high myopia. High myopia (SER ≤ -6.00D) is a severe case of myopia that can also lead to blinding eye conditions like glaucoma and retinal detachment.

cute girl use phone and feel eye pain in the resturant

For adults and children alike, excessive screen time is also associated with digital eye strain (DES), which is a group of eye-related problems resulting from prolonged screen time. The symptoms of DES include eye irritation, burning, dryness, redness, sensitivity to light and a loss of the eye’s ability to focus correctly, resulting in blurred vision and headaches, sometimes mimicking that of a migraine.

The health implications of excessive screen time do not stop at these eye health problems; it also increases the risk of mental illness, musculoskeletal problems, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves and our children from these detrimental effects.

Mitigating the health risks with quality screen time

For parents especially, the battle to limit screen time can be incredibly stressful. Screen time recommendations can be challenging to adhere to during these times. As such, adopting a variety of alternative strategies to supplement these recommendations is key.

A key strategy is to curate your children’s online content when they do use their devices. You can help your children make the best use of their time online by sourcing for high-quality media content. According to the National Institute of Early Childhood Development in Singapore, such media content should check these boxes:

A.    Is it engaging: Do the design features keep your child focused or distracted from the learning goal?

B.    Does it actively involve: Do the tasks challenge your kid to explore or does your child tap and swipe mindlessly?

C.     Is it meaningful: Does the content introduce new concepts within a context your child is familiar with?

D.    Can it be social: Can you engage with your child by using “serve-and-return interactions” like talking about what he or she sees and does?

Beyond this, it is important to inculcate in our children good device habits from an early age. Understandably, for many parents around the world, limiting children’s screen time and screening their online behaviour all on top of managing their professional obligations is no easy feat.

As such, we at Plano will be helping all parents in Singapore by providing the annual premium subscription of the plano application for free. With the full suite of parental control features now available for everyone, we hope we can help alleviate some of your parenting stressors, especially when it comes to your children’s screen time.

Under these turbulent circumstances, taking the necessary steps to improve our children’s interactions with their devices is imperative. There is no doubt in my mind that with a positive mindset and undying resolve to tackle the new challenges we will be able to get through this together!