As parents whose children are growing up in the midst of the digital age, we are faced with a new type of challenge – getting our children to drop their phones and experience the great outdoors.
Sure, social media, gaming and watching TV provide the same level of engagement and entertainment as playing outdoors and making connections out in the real world, but at what cost?
Research shows that children who spend more time outdoors have a higher likelihood of preventing the onset of myopia. As parents, it is our responsibility to encourage our little ones to lead a more active lifestyle, from a very young age.
What causes myopia?
It is easy to blame having myopia or your children developing it at a young age on genetics. Indeed, it is true that individuals with a particular set of genes are predisposed to developing myopia. However, research on people that develop myopia although their parents or siblings do not have myopia suggests that genetics is not the sole factor that plays a role.
New studies have begun to shed light on negative environmental factors as a significant contributor of myopia. These include too much near work, screen time and too much time indoors. Interestingly, excessive near work and too much time indoors work together when it comes to causing and worsening myopia progression.
The good news?
As parents of children growing up constantly ‘plugged in,’ it can be daunting to find that environmental factors can play such a significant role in your child developing myopia. However, knowing that non-genetic factors also cause myopia provides an opportunity for you to modify your little one’s behaviour to reduce the risk factors associated with myopia and its progression.
How exactly does outdoor time help?
Research also shows that if you and your partner are nearsighted, the risk of your child needing glasses rises to an alarming 60% if not enough time is spent outdoors. The solution? Just 2 hours a day outdoors neutralises the risk of myopia to 20% (equal risk associated with a child whose parents are not myopic!)
When your child leaves his phone for some playtime outdoors, several things occur. Firstly, more time outdoors naturally means less screen time and near work, both vital contributors to myopia development and progression. Moreover, not only does being outdoors force your child to focus on distant objects, it increases his exposure to sunlight. These factors slow down the axial growth of the eye, which contributes to myopia.
Shedding some light on the benefits of sunlight.
Some theories suggest that soaking up Vitamin D from sunlight stunts abnormal childhood eye growth and the onset of myopia. Another theory is that the brightness of the light outdoors (relative to the indoors) triggers the release of dopamine in certain cells in the retina. This then reduces the progression of the growth of the eye, which ultimately means less risk of near-sightedness. While more research has to be done in these theories, they all have the same takeaway: the outdoors should be an important part of your kids’ lives and it is your responsibility as a parent to encourage them to enjoy a few hours of outdoor time everyday!
“The childhood shows the man as morning shows the day”John Milton
Educating your child on the importance of the great outdoors and spending less time behind the screen empowers them to intrinsically develop a healthy relationship with technology and lead a healthy lifestyle, well-balanced lifestyle.
For more information on myopia and how to protect your little ones from myopia and how to reduce myopia progression, download our report here.