Health and Fitness

Parents underestimate effect of screen time on kid's eye health

By Jasleen Kaur -- July 23, 2022 7:14 pm -- Updated:July 23, 2022 7:20 pm

Washington, July 23: Only half of the parents recognise that screen time has a major impact on their child's eye health, suggests the CS Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health at the University of Michigan Health.

"Many parents may not be aware of both short and long-term health issues linked to excessive screen time, including its effect on children's eyes," said Mott Poll co-director Sarah Clark.

"Our findings suggest that some parents may have inaccurate perceptions of activities that affect their child's eye health and vision and how to minimize risks." The nationally representative report was based on responses from 2,002 parents of children aged 3-18 surveyed in April.

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Some experts have pointed to the combination of increased screen time and less time outdoors as factors that may put children at higher risk for developing myopia, or nearsightedness, which can lead to serious eye problems in the future. The rate of nearsightedness in children has increased dramatically in the past 30 years.

Parents underestimate effect of screen time on kid's eye health

Research is ongoing, but studies suggest outdoor time protects against myopia. "Parents should encourage at least one to two hours of outdoor time per day because exposure to natural light benefits eye development," Clark said.

"Parents should enforce family rules to ensure children have a sustained period of non-screen time during the day. This is especially important during summer months when they're off from school and may have less structured downtime."

Some research has also indicated associations between working up close - like reading or using a tablet - increasing the odds of myopia. "It's important to time to think about myopia risks for children because kids with this condition often become more nearsighted over time," said Olivia Killeen, M.D., an ophthalmologist at U-M Health Kellogg Eye Center who consulted on the report. "The age of myopia onset is the most significant predictor of severe myopia later in life."

Parents underestimate effect of screen time on kid's eye health

Using eyewear to minimize risks to children's eyes

Another overlooked area of eye health — protecting little eyes from intense sunlight.
Less than a third of parents polled say wearing sunglasses when outdoors has a major impact on children's vision and eye health, with just two in five having their child wear eyewear when outdoors. In fact, when children are outdoors, they should wear sunglasses or wide-brimmed hats to decrease the risks of ultraviolet radiation damage, which can contribute to eye problems in older age, Clark says.

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"While parents often make sure their children's skin is protected with sunscreen, they may not think about protecting their eyes from the sun as well," Clark said.

Many parents polled also skip steps that help minimize eye injuries during activities that include the risk of objects hitting the child's eye at high speed or force, with less than a third of parents saying their child wears protective glasses or goggles during contact sports.

-PTC News


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