IPG Mediabrands and plano, a device management software that restricts screen time for children, have come up with a campaign that aims to change the reputation of Singapore as “the myopia capital of the world”.

Titled #SeePastTheScreen, the corporate social responsibility campaign aims to get children off screens and will play out across OOH, print, digital, television, mobile, radio and social media for eight weeks starting February 25.

plano highlighted in one of the episodes of Ethiroli, a series from Vasantham (Mediacorp).

Myopia is a complex eye condition, with both genetics and environmental risk factors contributing to its development. It is estimated that half of the world’s population will have myopia by 2050. In Singapore alone, more than 50% of 9-year olds are reported to have myopia, with direct costs of myopia estimated to cost 1 billion dollars annually. While there are current interventions to manage myopia, the opportunity lies in developing preventative screening and early intervention mechanisms that help reduce or delay the onset of myopia.

Singapore is  #1 in the world for the prevalence of childhood myopia in seven to nine-year-olds.

This is one Singapore statistic that we’d all like to change. Whether it’s because of all the studying children do, genetic factors, prolonged screen time or lack of outdoor time, myopia is extremely common in Singapore.

Myopia, or shortsightedness is when a person can see near objects clearly but distant objects appear blurred.

Dr. Mo Dirani, a research entrepreneur, successfully spun-off a health tech company to save sight and empower lives. He shares his story in this interview.

The plano app, downloaded almost 200,000 times since launching last year in Asia, allows parents to control device time for their children and analyse data to ensure screens are being used at safe distances.

Researchers, including those at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA), have linked excessive device use and reduced time spent outdoors in child and teenage years with myopia. The condition affects around four million Australians, however, studies suggest it will increase four-fold by 2050 if adjustments aren’t made to current lifestyle trends.

Global myopia rates have continued to rise in recent years, with researchers suggesting that more than half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050.

This has also come at a time of increased levels of mobile device use by children aged six and under.

Getting children to play outside will benefit their eyesight and reduce their risk of becoming shortsighted, experts say.

Shortsightedness, or myopia, is becoming increasingly common the world over. By 2050, nearly 4.8 billion people will be affected by this visual disorder, which is about 2.8 billion more people than in 2010.

In China, where over 90 percent of young people are shortsighted, the problem is considered an epidemic.

“More than 90 per cent of children aged four years or younger are now using devices with little control over how they engage with them,” shares Dr. Mohamed ‘Mo’ Dirani, founder and managing director of plano Pte Ltd. The company has developed an app to help manage device use and curb myopia among children.

“Science has shown that inappropriate device use can cause adverse health outcomes in children, including mental illness, screen addiction and myopia,” Dr. Mo says. Today, myopia has reached epidemic proportions in developed countries, affecting up to 80 per cent of young people in some countries like Singapore, he adds.

As parents, we want to keep our children in the best health. We want to give them a balanced diet, enough play time to keep them fit and healthy and keep them healthy mentally as well.

One area that’s often overlooked is eye health. We think back to the times that we were kids and we didn’t have such problems until we were exposed to computer screens. But now, screens can come in the form of a smart devices and fit into the palm of your little one’s hands. With over 80 per cent of teenagers and young adults affected by myopia, it’s no wonder Singapore is considered the myopia capital of the world.