There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.Nelson Mandela
Although the former revolutionary spoke these words in 1995, they still hold true in this digital age.
Arguably, above all else, raising a child ‘right’ hinges on how committed parents are to give their child the best environment to grow up in.
However, parents need to remember that they are not alone in raising the next generation of movers, shakers and change makers; it takes an entire network of support to ensure they remain protected and healthy, especially in this digital age. What exactly constitutes this ecosystem?
1. A healthy home environment
Technology is a wonderful thing – it is helping an entire generation of children connect to and interact with the vast world around them, in ways in which we couldn’t even begin to imagine in our childhoods. However, as with all good things in life, too much of it is harmful. Excessive device use has spawned several mental and physical health consequences among children worldwide, including myopia (short-sightedness), device dependency and screen and gaming addiction.
In fact, the problem has become so pronounced that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently acknowledged gaming disorder as an official mental health condition. An estimated 5% of adolescents now match the profile for a diagnosis of gaming disorder.
Proactivity is key when it comes to helping children develop a healthier relationship with their screens. Setting house rules and communicating why these rules need to be followed is an important way to cultivate healthy device habits. These rules include, device-free time blocks, restrictions on online activity to certain child-appropriate applications and websites and getting parental consent before making any purchases or inputting any personal information online.
Having an open communication channel and building a relationship on the foundation of trust and support is crucial. Actively looking out for signs of addiction, cyberbullying and more are important measures to ensure that these issues do not escalate.
2. An active friend circle
Early-childhood friendships are an essential part of children’s development, in more ways than one. Not only do friendships create the foundation for their social interactions for years to come, they impact their health.
Children with more active friends are likely influenced to engage in physical activity primarily due to lowered ‘barriers’ such as feeling self-conscious and having the energy and/or self-discipline to participate in such activities.
More time spent having face-to-face interactions with friends ultimately moves children away from their screens. A healthy way they can spend their time is through outdoor play. Going outdoors has a profound impact on their overall wellbeing – and this includes their eye health.
A lack of time spent outdoors is one of the environmental risk factors of myopia and serves as an important reason why the global myopia epidemic is quietly and swiftly sweeping the world. One of the main ways we can ameliorate this daunting phenomenon is by encouraging our children to ditch their screens for the great outdoors with their friends.
3. The Experts: Keeping children healthy
Regular medical and dental check-ups are important for a healthy body. Parents should also remember to bring their children to regular and timely comprehensive eye checks. Unfortunately, the eyes are rarely given the due protection they deserve.
Getting them into the eye care system from as early as 6 months of age is essential for early diagnosis and identifying vision problems, which is a huge step in preventing the progression of myopia.
The global blind spot in eye care, which is the under-utilisation of eye care services, delayed diagnosis and the lack of preventative management in eye care, needs to be addressed. Our data reveals that even in developed countries like the US, among children aged 2 to 14 years old, only 38.6% have ever gotten their eyes checked at an optometrist or eye doctor.
That’s exactly why we’ve developed plano Eyecheck, an affordable, easy-to-use, patient-centred online platform – to help close the loop for eye care service delivery both in Singapore and in the near future, the world. It is especially necessary in this digital age for our children to get into the eye health system and give their eyes the due protection they deserve.The status quo is simply not acceptable!
It takes a village!
As the old African adage goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Indeed, in this digital age, our children need a healthy ecosystem of support not only from parents, but their peers and health experts. Our collaborative effort in monitoring their development will enable them to experience all that our vast world has to offer while remaining protected and healthy. Remember, children are the future, so let’s set them up for success from an early age!