Vision problems due to too much screen time?
During the summer holidays, many children spend even more time in front of the television than usual. Unknown to many parents, screen time in front of digital devices, video games and television is associated with eye damage in their offspring and can ultimately lead to total blindness.
Researchers at the University of Michigan recently conducted a nationally representative survey, called the CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health, of 2,002 parents of children ages 3 to 18. The main concern was the eye health of young people.
Screen time is damaging children's eyes
Only half of parents are aware that screen time has a major impact on their children's eye health, report experts from the University of Michigan.
"Many parents may not be aware of the short- and long-term health issues associated with excessive screen consumption, including the impact on their children's eyes," says Sarah Clark of the University from Michigan.
Parents are often unaware of the risks
“Our results suggest that some parents may have a misconception about which activities affect their children's eye health and vision and how to minimize the risks,” adds the expert.
Over the past thirty years, myopia in children has increased dramatically and screen time seems to play a big role. Researchers have found that the combination of more screen time and less time outdoors puts children at a higher risk of developing myopia.
Eye problems caused by myopia in childhood
If people suffer from nearsightedness from an early age, this in turn increases the likelihood of developing serious eye problems, according to the team. Although research on this subject is ongoing, studies on the subject suggest that spending time outdoors protects against nearsightedness.
Additionally, research findings indicate that special activities close to the screen, such as using a tablet, also increase the likelihood of children developing myopia, experts say.
"This is an important time to think about the risk of myopia in children, because children with the disease often become more myopic over time," said ophthalmologist Dr. Olivia Killeen, co-author of the current report. The age at which myopia begins is the strongest predictor of severe myopia later in life.
Spend one to two hours a day outdoors
According to Clark, parents should make sure their children spend at least an hour or two outside each day. The reason given by the expert is that contact with natural light promotes eye development.
“Parents should establish family rules to ensure that children have long periods of time without screens during the day. This is especially important during the summer months when they are away from school and have less structured downtime,” Clark said.
Sunglasses help minimize risk to children's eyes
Experts also point out that it is important to protect children's eyes from intense sunlight. In the survey, however, less than a third of parents knew that wearing sunglasses outside had a major impact on children's vision and eye health.
It was also found that only two in five parents allowed their child to wear sunglasses when outside. However, it is very important that children wear sunglasses or a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors to reduce the risk of UV damage.
Such ultraviolet damage to the eyes during childhood can lead to eye problems later in life, Clark said. Although parents generally ensure that their children's skin is sufficiently protected with sunscreen, they often do not think about protecting their offspring's eyes from the sun, the expert warns.
Eye protection during leisure
The survey also noted that many parents surveyed do not take steps to help minimize eye injuries in various activities that involve the risk of objects being struck at high speed or with force into the child's eye. .
It has been found that only a third of parents state that their child wears protective glasses for so-called contact sports. If kids play sports like lacrosse, tennis, baseball, softball and basketball, Clark advises getting advice on the proper eyewear.
At the very least, most parents surveyed indicated that their offspring wear safety glasses during activities where there is a clear risk of eye injury. Experts cite, for example, working with tools or activities such as paintballing or shooting with Nerf toy guns.
In the survey, parents most often blamed the following factors for their children's impaired vision and eye health: reading in poor light, proximity to television screens or similar devices , power supply and the blue light emitted by the screens.
No permanent damage from reading in low light
“Some parents may still be following the advice of previous generations about protecting their children's eyes. Reading in low light or sitting close to the TV may strain or strain your eyes, but it won't cause permanent damage or long-term eye problems,” says Clark.
Regular eye exams are very important
In the survey, four out of five parents said their child had had an eye exam during a visit to the pediatrician or GP. Additionally, more than a quarter of parents said their child's eyes had been checked at school or daycare.
However, one in seven parents said in the survey that their child had not had an eye test or been seen by an ophthalmologist in the past two years. "Children should have an eye exam at least every two years to make sure their eyes are developing properly," Clark says.
Blind from childhood eye problems
Ultimately, it is very important to prevent vision problems and eye problems or to identify and treat them as early as possible. If such problems go undiagnosed, they can progress later in life to serious eye conditions, even leading to complete permanent vision loss, experts warn. (as)
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This text corresponds to the specifications of the specialized medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been verified by health professionals.
Sources:University of Michigan: Keeping an eye on children's vision (published 7/18/2022), University of Michigan
This article contains general advice only and should not be used for self-diagnosis or treatment. It cannot substitute a visit to the doctor.