As parents whose children are growing up in the midst of the digital age and a pandemic, we are faced with a new type of challenge. It is getting our children to put down their smartphones and get up and moving. The addictive nature of mobile devices is undeniable. Throw in the stay home measures that made it mandatory for kids to be cooped up with their devices into the mix and you have a recipe for disaster. Too much screen time can hurt your kids’ eyes.
In Singapore, research has shown an almost 20% increase in screen time for both children and adults during the pandemic! This is particularly worrying given that research has found that even 2-year olds are already spending at least 2 hours in front of screens, with screen time increasing to more than 7 hours in teenagers.
Just how bad is too much screen time for our little ones?
Screen time affects our children’s still-developing eyes in many ways.
Near-work was known to be one of the most important risk factors for the onset and progression of myopia even before the smart device revolution! For instance, behaviours like more time spent reading, poor reading posture, and a closer viewing distance has been found to be particularly problematic. More time on near-work adds to the problem. This means less time outdoors. This is another risk factor of myopia.
Screen-based activities are a new form of near-work. Children who use devices tend to do so indoors for long uninterrupted periods with poor posture and at viewing distances closer than conventional books.
Without early intervention, myopia can lead to sight-threatening high myopia and even blindness in some cases.
Learn more: Want to prevent myopia from developing in your child?
For adults and children alike, excessive screen time is also associated with digital eye strain (DES), which is a group of eye-related problems resulting from prolonged screen time.
Research from South Korea found that children who spend 3 or more hours on screens each day have a 13-fold greater risk of developing DES. Symptoms include eye irritation, burning, dryness, redness, sensitivity to light, and a loss of the eye’s ability to focus correctly. This results in blurred vision and headaches, sometimes mimicking that of a migraine.
Read more: How to get rid of dry eyes
Have your children ever complained about stiff necks and/or fingers? These should not be dismissed as regular aches and pains; they have long-term consequences on their necks and spines!
In fact, these issues are becoming so pervasive and problematic, that ‘text neck’ and ‘smartphone thumb’ are now common terms used to describe them by health care professionals.
‘Text neck’ develops when slouching and bending their heads down and forward during extended periods of smart device use. It leads to rounded shoulders, tenderness, stiffness, soreness, and weakness in the neck, back, and shoulder muscles, and reduced neck mobility.
‘Smartphone thumb’ on the other hand is a type of tendinitis. The repetitive motion of typing on a flat smartphone screen is the culprit. It affects the wrist joint and causes pain around the thumb.
Nipping it in the bud
“The childhood shows the man as morning shows the day”
– John Milton
We couldn’t have said it better. Given the collateral damage that our children are susceptible to, addressing their unhealthy relationship with technology early on is essential. Educating your child on the importance of a healthy relationship with their devices contributes towards a lifetime of healthy eyes!
Explore our specifically designed products and services backed by eye health professionals to help keep your children safe online and their eyes healthy.