What You Need to Know about the Connection Between Childhood Myopia and Screen Time
According to a recent study, excessive screen time on smart devices and computers can increase the risk of myopia by nearly 80% in children and teens.
That’s a powerful statistic, especially considering the increased reliance younger individuals have on screens — from cell phones and tablets to computers, televisions and other smart devices.
Once childhood myopia sets in, vision deterioration tends to progress rapidly into the early 20s, showing this condition’s immediate and long-lasting impacts on children’s vision health.
What is Myopia?
Myopia, more commonly referred to as nearsightedness, is an eye disorder that makes it challenging to focus visually on objects close to you. Some symptoms and signs of myopia include blurred or fuzzy vision when viewing distant objects, noticeable strain on the eyes, and headaches.
There are two types of myopia — high myopia and low myopia. These are differentiated by the severity of the nearsightedness experienced. Once myopia progresses, it worsens with age, stabilizing as individuals enter adulthood.
And myopia is on the rise. Most projections indicate that almost 50% of the population will have myopia by 2050. With that in mind, it’s essential to understand why this disorder has become so prevalent and what causes it.
There are many theories about what causes myopia, but many can be tied to childhood. These causes have been studied, and there’s much evidence connecting childhood myopia with excessive screen time.
Childhood Myopia & Screen Time
Myopia is a common eye disorder resulting in blurry vision, and it’s on the rise in younger generations.
Professor Bourne, Professor of Ophthalmology at the Vision and Eye Research Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, said in a recent study, “Around half the global population is expected to have myopia by 2050… This research comes when our children have been spending more time than ever looking at screens for long periods due to school closures. It is clear that urgent research is needed to improve the understanding of how exposure to digital devices can affect our eyes and vision.”
There is continued research into the connection between screen time and myopia in children and teens, with many studies backing the claim that children with myopia experience noticeably more screen time and less outdoor time than those who don’t have myopia.
And these trends are continuing to rise as we advance into the digital age.
The Covid-19 pandemic also offered an interesting insight into screentime and childhood myopia, with more and more children and teenagers spending time indoors gazing at smartphones, tablets, and computers. Research into screentime and social interactions during the pandemic showed that the limitation of outside activities and in-person interactions was associated with myopia development and progression due to increased screen activities.
What are the Treatment Option Available to slow Myopia?
You may be surprised to learn that there are several treatment options available to slow myopia. Although our team will review these treatment options for you, just a few examples include:
- Orthokeratology: Orthokeratology (also known as ortho-k) involves wearing special contact lenses overnight that temporarily reshape the cornea to correct myopia during the day.
- Center-distance multifocal contact lenses. The lenses are worn during the day and are designed to redirect how light hits the retina. Considered to be one the best weapons for controlling the progression of myopia in children, this specialty lens “tricks” the eye into not growing too long. MiSight lenses are the first FDA approved lenses for controlling the progression of short sightedness in children. Multi-year clinical studies have shown that MiSight lenses effectively slow axial elongation by an average of 59%.
- Atropine eye drops: These eye drops can be used to slow the progression of myopia in children. They work by temporarily relaxing the focusing mechanism of the eye.
Reducing the Risk of Childhood Myopia
With the apparent connection between myopia in children and the increased reliance on smart devices, there is evidence to show that reducing this screen time can help reduce the risk of myopia.
There are several options for parents to keep myopia at bay, including:
- Reducing screentime
- Increasing outdoor time and social interaction
- Using specialized contact lenses to slow myopia progression
- Using low-dose atropine drops at bedtime
- Getting an annual eye exam or sooner based on your eye care practitionner’s recommendations
All of these can have a positive impact on a child’s vision and overall health and well-being.
If you’re worried about the effects of smart devices on your child’s vision, schedule an eye exam at Weston Contact Lens Institute to get ahead of this often-undetected disorder. Our team is available to provide you with the guidance and the insight that you need when it comes to navigate through managing your myopia and providing you with a healthier and more fulfilling way of life with the best vision possible.