21 August 2019
Children are very vulnerable to developing myopia because their eyes are still developing. Photo:
Children are very vulnerable to developing myopia because their eyes are still developing. Photo:

Computer screens take toll on children’s eyes

For today’s mothers, there are a number of ways to keep kids busy during summer and keep them from interfering with the household chores.

Before there’s television; now it’s video games — whether played on a 50-inch 3D smart TV, an iPad, a desktop computer or any smartphone.

Mothers think it’s perfectly all right because as they go about cleaning the house and preparing dinner, they know their kids are having fun at home — safe and quiet. It’s cheaper than hiring a babysitter in the long run.

What many of them don’t know is that hours spent gazing at those electronic screens can result in permanent damage to the kids’ eyesight.

Helen Hancock is one typical mother who didn’t realize the terrible toll computer screens are taking on her 10-year-old daughter Rhiannah until she took her for a vision test, according to Daily Mail. The kid’s sight had deteriorated rapidly over the summer months.

“I asked her optician if he thought it was because Rhiannah had spent so much time on computers while I was working and he said that the increase in her prescription had been so rapid that he couldn’t imagine what else could have caused it,” Hancock tells the newspaper. “He recommended limiting her access to screens to slow the decline.”

“I felt terribly guilty thinking that I could have prevented the deterioration in Rhiannah’s sight. While she has worn glasses since she was eight, she now has a prescription of -4.75, more than two whole points worse than it was before last summer. She really struggles to see without her glasses.”

In Britain, experts are noting a rise in the number of young children who are myopic or short-sighted, and they attribute this to the kids’ constant use of electronic gadgets. Cases of myopia used to happen during puberty, but now they are getting younger and younger.

Experts also note that many of the cases are children from well-off families, and this is partly because they are the ones who can afford the relatively expensive electronic gadgets and screens.

“We are seeing a general trend towards myopia, and studies suggest that children from better socio-economic backgrounds are more likely to be affected,” says Joanne Hancox, a consultant in paediatrics at London’s Moorfields Eye Hospital.

“It’s also much more common in cities. One of the theories is that children who play outside are less likely to have myopia.

“Outside you have more cause to look into the distance than inside, where you’re more likely to be doing close-up activities involving reading, writing and screens.”

And children are very vulnerable to developing myopia because their eyes are still developing.

“There are a number of factors involved in the increase of myopia, but I have no doubt that the early use of handheld computers plays a big role,” says Dr. Maria Liu, head of the new Myopia Control Clinic at the School of Optometry, Berkeley.

She explains that if the kid’s eyes do a lot of close-up activity, they will think that this is the “normal state” and may become less effective in looking at longer distances.

We often take our eyesight for granted. But our eyes, especially our kids’, need a lot of caring and protection.

So take another look at those handheld computers we give to our kids to keep them busy and quiet. They may not be as harmless as they look.

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