Our Unconventional Answer to Excessive Screen Time and Myopia: A Mobile Application


Myopia is the leading cause of visual impairment in children and excessive near work is one of the most important environmental risk factors for the onset and progression of myopia.

In this technology-dependent age, screen-based activities constitute a new form of near-work. As the age at which our children are exposed to smartphones and tablets gets younger and their duration of uninterrupted periods of screen time gets longer, there is a clear imperative to develop early interventions that help to protect our children’s vision from the harmful effects of screens.

Battling myopia in a digitised world

As I always say, technology itself is not the problem, but what needs to be addressed is our reliant relationship with technology. At Plano, we saw an opportunity to flip the problem into the solution. That is exactly why we developed plano, a parental management mobile application which is designed to reduce myopia-related risk factors, including excessive screen time and lack of outdoor activity, and empower healthier device usage in children from an early age.

plano achieves this through a combination of science-based eye health features and child-safety functions including a face-to-screen distance tracker, digital eye health and progress reports, an app blocker and remote screen locking.

How the plano app works

1. Eye health prompts

The app runs in the background of smart devices, sending friendly alerts and reminders that promote good eye care practices. What is unique to plano is the use of science-based eye health prompts which work to modify children’s device use habits.

For instance, plano’s face-to-screen prompts ensure that children comply with the recommended smartphone viewing distance of at least 30cm away from their eyes.

plano app’s face-to-screen distance prompt

Eye break prompts which are triggered after 30 minutes of continuous device use as well as spectacle detection prompts (which appear when children who use spectacles are not wearing them) also serve to cultivate good device use and eye health habits from an early age.

2. The plano Shop

While the prompts are a good first step to kickstart the process of behaviour change, we wanted the app to be able to incentivise long-term behaviour change. We hence created a points- and rewards-based system within the app to achieve two objectives, namely, to reinforce children’s good device use and to encourage them to engage in device-free outdoor activity, an important protective measure against myopia.

Children earn ‘plano points’ every time they follow and comply with the reminders which they can use to request exclusive activities from the plano Shop, which parents can approve and purchase. In this way, the in-app rewards platform effectively encourages children to want to be actively involved in their own vision care journey.

3. Parental control functions

When developing plano, we recognised the importance of giving parents the ability to monitor their children’s device use, even if they are not physically there to keep an eye on them. As such, we included a suite of parental control functions in the app.

plano app’s app blocker, device time scheduling, and remote locking functions

4. Plano Eyecheck *only available in Singapore

We also wanted the app to serve as a platform to get children into optometry and to close the loop for eye care service delivery in Singapore and the rest of the world. We designed Plano Eyecheck, an in-app referral system to do just that.

Parents are prompted with in-app reminders when their children are due for an eye examination. The platform then connects parents to their nearest optometrist and allows them to locate, book, and manage appointments for a variety of eye care services. *Parents can also access Plano Eyecheck online.

More than just an app

Plano is an eye health ecosystem that includes more than just the plano app. With plano Eyecheck and our educational and eye health promotion work, we aim to go beyond acting as a parental control tool, and to truly put eye health on the map.

Our journey first began in the Singapore Eye Research Institute (SERI) – Singapore National Eye Centre (SNEC) Incubator programme. From the app’s humble beginnings in Singapore less than 3 years ago to now, the team’s passion and vision has propelled plano to be launched worldwide and to be adopted by more than 250,000 households.

Like it or not, screens are everywhere and constantly surround our children. We believe that plano is an important part of the answer to helping curb the harmful effects of excessive screen time and to help parents protect their children in the battle against myopia in this digital world.

* plano users can look forward to a series of exciting announcements which include a new app interface for both parents and children and improved product functionality. To download the app on your mobile device, click here.

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