Increased digital screen time during COVID-19 may worsen myopia epidemic
“The parents of children in my practice are worried about increased screen time during the pandemic, and I am seeing more children with worsening myopia in the past 6 months” , says Dr Nam Tran Pham of American Eye Center Vietnam.
In a survey recently conducted by the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition, the percentage of children spending 4 or more hours per day using electronic devices increased from 21% to 44% when the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The increased near work combined with decreased outdoor time makes Myopia Control (with Atropine therapy or Ortho-K lenses) more important than ever before.
The goal of Myopia Control therapy is to slow myopia progression during the most active growth years so that fewer children will develop high myopia and avoid the blinding consequences that can occur later in life. Multiple studies have shown long-term safety and effectiveness of low-dose Atropine and Ortho-K lenses to treat children who have myopia that is progressing.
Other eye symptoms related to overuse of screens are discomfort or pain while reading, headaches, tired eyes, dry eyes, blinking/twitching eyes, and problem focusing.
What parents can do
- Establish daily schedules for your children, minimizing recreational screen time and reserving computer time only for digital learning. There are digital apps that allow parents to set limits, restricting the time of screen usage per day or per session.
- Free time should be away from screens, playing outside as much as possible, but also including reading, arts/crafts and playing with non-digital games/toys.
- At study desk, provide good lighting in a location that allows the eyes to look far away during breaks, such as looking out of a window. Screen lighting should feel comfortable, not too bright and not too dim, and the computer should never be used in a dark room.
- Screen time should include regular distance vision breaks, following the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- No screen time at all for children younger than 2 years and no more than 30 minutes a day for children 2 to 5 years old.
- Encourage activities outdoors at least 1 hour every day.
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