Study: Increased Screen Time Damaging Children’s Vision
After a year of quarantine, remote learning and increased screen time, a new study reveals that mandated covid-19 measures resulted in a “substantial” increase in eye problems for children. Myopia, or nearsightedness, was three times worse among children in 2020 than over the last five years.
The study by Journal of the American Medical Association assessed 123,000 children between 6 and 13 years old. From 2015 to 2019, only 5.7 percent of 6-year-olds were myopic. In 2020, 21.5 percent were diagnosed with the condition. A similar increase occurred as children got older. With 7-year-olds, it rose from 16.2 to 26.2 percent; among 8-year-olds, it went from 27.7 to 37.2 percent.
Researchers blame the growing use of smartphones, computers and other digital devices. Even before the pandemic, screen time was soaring and the rate of teenagers needing glasses almost doubled from 2012 to 2018. Two thirds of them were diagnosed with myopia.
Previous studies found screen time to be a main cause of declining eye health, particularly among children because young eyes are more sensitive to environmental changes and therefore more susceptible to myopia.
According to the World Health Organization, half of the world’s population will be myopic in the next 30 years. Increased screen time, normalized largely by the pandemic, and the corresponding decline in time spent outdoors will likely exacerbate the problem.
Studies show that outdoor activity greatly minimizes the chances of developing myopia. It exposes children to brighter light and different chromatic light spectrums and entrains the circadian rhythm, all of which strengthen the eyes and help develop sharper vision.
But covid-19 policies are forcing children to stay indoors. The irony is that children, who are most susceptible to myopia, are developing the condition because of quarantine protocols in response to covid-19, which they are the least susceptible to. And this is done by preventing outdoor activities, which have been proved to be beneficial against both covid-19 and myopia.
A 2016 study found that the average American spent 10 hours and 39 minutes per day on digital devices such as smartphones, computers, tablets, video games and tvs. With remote learning and working from home, this figure undoubtedly rose during the pandemic.
These numbers demonstrate how much valuable time we are losing to technology.
We live in a world in which governments are enacting policies that challenge parental authority. Without the active intervention of parents, children will grow up not only with poorer eyesight but with a higher likelihood of depression, anxiety and obesity due to covid mandates leading to technology and screen addictions. More than ever, parents need to step up and be actively involved in their children’s lives.
In this age of government-mandated quarantine and remote learning, that can seem impossible. Our free book Child Rearing With Vision gives an excellent way of doing so: “Get your children involved in social activities, sports programs and physical, outdoor jobs. Aim to develop a balanced lifestyle for them. A day full of challenging activity will break a desire to spend time on an electronic device.”
This can be as simple as scheduling the amount of time your children spend online. Ensure your children don’t take a break from online classes by visiting YouTube or social media. Instead, once classes are done, they can read a book or go outside and enjoy fresh air and exercise.
And the best way to teach is by example. As we write in our book:
There can be no better influence on your children than your positive example. Examine your own use of electronic devices and the Internet. Do you need to make changes? If so, do so! Explain to your children why you are concerned about mobile devices and Internet access. Help them to understand you have a responsibility before God to rear them His way. Your children will more likely make a change, and put their hearts in that change, when they understand your concern and see your example.
Ephesians 6:4 states that parents must bring up their children in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord.” God tells us to go on the offensive. We must take action now while we can.
Take action today. Go on a technology fast; take up new, active, outdoor hobbies. An ancient Chinese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now.”
Request your free copy of Child Rearing With Vision to learn just how to counter the negative effects of technology in your life and that of your children.