Preventing the progression of myopia is no longer just a matter of genes. How should we go about tackling myopia caused by environmental factors?
Before talking about myopia caused by environmental factors, it is vital to understand the definition of myopia. Myopia is known as nearsightedness; Nearsightedness is a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but objects farther away become blurry. It occurs when the shape of your eye causes light rays to bend (refract) incorrectly, focusing images in front of your retina instead of on your retina. In Singapore, myopia generally develops when a child is around seven to nine years old and advances quickly when they are in primary school. This fact is indeed alarming.
But what could be the cause of this trend?
Myopia can be caused by 2 main environmental factors, increased screen time usage and the lack of outdoor activities. This blurring vision can be caused by endless near-work activities, as a result of our technological devices. The 2 examples below attempt to better explain this phenomena.
Incidence of myopia explained.
Asian vs. Caucasian children
An interesting study shows us that myopia is more prevalent among Asian children than Caucasian children.
‘It is predicted that the incidence of myopia in East Asia and Western Europe will rise to 51.6% and 36.7% by 2020 respectively .’ This is largely due to myopia caused by desk-bound lifestyle. Higher educational pressures in Asian schools propel children to rank studying higher than engaging in outdoor activities. Thus, it is important to prioritize spending time outdoors and get natural sunlight, which will decrease the likelihood of the onset of myopia.
Children vs. Parents
There has been a shift from going outdoors to staying indoors. In the past, our parents would encourage us to go outdoors and play with our next-door neighbours. We found fun and excitement from playing games like hide-and-seek. Nowadays, we parents keep our children occupied differently – by handing them a smartphone or a tablet. This way, they do not have to worry about their child breaking curfew when they go out to play.
The previous generation did not stay indoors this much. Technological advancement has accelerated ‘social’ myopia in children to a startling extent. Hence, children are carrying this inactive lifestyle and are disconnected with nature into adulthood which creates an appalling trend for the future wellness of our society.
Preventing the onset of myopia by mind(set) over matter.
In the 21st century, most children live in a high-rise apartment, gets transported to and fetched from school, and spends an abundance of time indoors, using smart devices or watching television. Due to increasing urbanization, unhealthy eye habits have become a lifestyle. However, these habits can be prevented through a healthy mindset.
1. Advocate good screen time habits
Parents should help children steer clear of any form of electronic media before the age of two, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Just like how it takes one slice of pizza, one cigarette and one drink to turn into menacing addictions, it only takes a few minutes on smart devices to get sucked into virtual reality.
Parent apps can help to reduce children’s screen time usage. plano aims to limit your child’s screen time and encourages outdoor activities through a point-based rewards system. This can be a good start to helping your child develop healthy eye care habits!
2. Encourage outdoor activity
Motivate your child to go out with their peers or join sports as a recreational activity. If they are unable to connect with their peers regularly, set aside time for them and bring them outdoors! A way of inspiring them would be making it a habit to play a specific sport (i.e, badminton, swimming) on a specific day or weekend. The plano shop offers exclusive discounts on device-free activities and programs for your child to enjoy! When your child follows the eye health prompts in the plano app (i.e. to take an eye break, to place the phone at a good distance from the eyes, etc.) he/she will accumulate in-app points. Your child can then use these points to request for the items and activities in the plano Shop.
*The plano shop is only available to Singapore users.