As social media users become younger in many parts of the world, researchers warned that many children are facing health problems linked to long hours spent facing screens. A new study found a growing number of kids requiring prescription glasses.
Researchers from Scrivens Opticians, an eye care company in the United Kingdom, said longer screen time has been causing eye strain, blurred vision and shortsightedness in children. The study shows that the number of kids with eye problems nearly doubled in less than a decade amid the rise of electronic devices.
In 2018, 35 per cent of children, aged 13 to 16, needed glasses, a 20 per cent increase from 2012 in the U.K. Researchers said the children covered by the study spent an average of 26 hours a week in front of electronic screens.
Children have a higher risk of having eye problems because of the lack of a natural ‘filter’ that protects their eyes. They also have shorter arms, which forces them to hold screens closer to their sensitive eyes.
“As you get older, the lens in your eye becomes a filter, but that’s not present in children,” Paul Karpecki, an optometrist and a member of the Eyesafe Vision Health Advisory Board, said. “That light goes right to the back of the eye.”
Over the past years, doctors have been recording new cases of glaucoma and retinal myopic degeneration in children, which they linked to increased screen time.
“It’s taken on incredible momentum the last three to five years,” Karpecki told Healthline. “It’s become more critical around the country. With the number of phones and iPads out there, (kids) aren’t getting the proper development with their eyes.”
The Scrivens researchers also found that many parents struggled to manage their children’s screen time. Experts suggested that parents apply the 20-20-20 rule, which requires people to take a 20-second break from screens every 20 minutes and to look at something 20 feet away from the screen.
However, it may be too early to parents to force kids to avoid mobile phones or tablets. Ryan Parker, an optometrist and the director of professional education at the eyewear company Essilor of America, said existing studies are still in early stages of understanding the long-term effects of additional screen time on children.
Source: Medical Daily