In 2016, researchers at the American Academy of Ophthalmology published a study predicting that 50% of the world’s population will suffer from myopia (or short-sightedness) in 2050 (1).
While this statistic sounds shocking, it can give us valuable insight into how we can prepare our kids to preserve their eye health in the digital age. Here are a few suggestions.
Why are myopia levels on the rise?
Myopia is a disorder of the eye that affects people’s ability to see distant objects. It most often develops as a result of spending too much time looking at near objects (e.g. a smartphone screen) which puts a lot of strain on our eyes and can cause them to elongate. This elongation affects the eye’s ability to focus light rays onto the retina, and therefore translate visual information into an image in the brain. This causes far away objects to appear blurry, a telltale sign of myopia.
As smart devices become more and more integral to our daily lives, we have started to spend more and more time looking at screens, or “near objects”.
It is not uncommon for someone in the developing world to spend eight hours a day at a computer for work or school and then relax in the evenings in front of a TV or smart device. While these devices make life wonderfully convenient and entertaining, they can take a toll on our eye health when used excessively.
As we bring our kids into a world that is becoming increasingly digitalized, it is important that we establish boundaries and teach them how to “switch off”. This will protect not only their eye health, but also the likelihood of them developing a variety of conditions linked to technology, including smartphone addiction and dry eye symptom.
How can I protect my kids from developing myopia?
Myopia typically develops between the ages of 7 and 13 (2). This means that teaching your child how to protect their eyes now will save them a whole lot of pain in the future.
So how can you establish a healthy relationship with technology in your child? Here are three top tips:
1. Regular breaks
Encourage your kids to take a screen break every 30 minutes. As mentioned earlier, excessive screen time and near work activity are contributing factors of myopia. Regular eye breaks can help reduce the strain and stress on the eye.
To save having to monitor your child 24/7, download plano. This parental control app runs in the background of their smart device and reminds them to take a break every half an hour.
2. Take them outside
Research shows that spending at least 2 hours outdoors is linked to reduced levels of myopia in children (see figure 1). You can go for family walks or even sign them up to weekly activities, such as soccer lessons or forestry school.
3. Visit the optometrist regularly
When left untreated, myopia can develop into high myopia which sometimes results in complete vision loss. For this reason, optometrists recommend getting your kids eyes tested at least once a year.
Not good at keeping track of doctor’s appointments? No problem! Plano’s inbuilt eye check system keeps track of past trips to the optometrist and reminds you when it’s time to go again.
Why it’s important to protect your kids from myopia.
Being a parent in the 21st century is no easy task. It sometimes feels as if we must be on our toes 24/7 to ensure our kids develop into happy and healthy people. While it may seem that eye health is just another worry to add to the long list of parental responsibilities, taking action now will make life easier for you and your kids in the future.
And rest assured that you’re not alone! plano will help you every step of the way, whether it’s keeping track of your child’s screen use, or reminding you when to see the optometrist, plano has it under control!