A new study published in the Lancet Digital Health, one of the world’s leading medical journals, has revealed a link between screen time and higher risk and severity of myopia, or nearsightedness, in children and young adults. With increasing rates of myopia seen around the globe, it is predicted that by the year 2050 about half the world’s population will be nearsighted. This research comes at a time when children have been spending more time than ever looking at screens for prolonged periods, due to school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is clear that urgent research is needed to further understand how exposure to digital devices can affect our eyes and vision. The authors of the study included eye health experts from Singapore, Australia, China, and the U.K. who examined more than 3,000 studies investigating smart device exposure and myopia in children and young adults aged between 3 months and 33 years.
The researchers discovered that the majority of these studies reported that exposure to digital screens (including longer periods of screen time and earlier age of first screen exposure in children) was significantly associated with a higher risk of myopia, an increase in the severity of myopia, and greater axial elongation (lengthening of the eyeball), which is the primary physical change that results in the onset of myopia. Overall, the findings from all the available studies showed that high levels of digital smart device usage were associated with almost a 30% higher risk of myopia. This risk increased to nearly 80% when excessive computer screen time was combined.
This research highlights the importance of monitoring digital device usage in children for ocular health and myopia management. A friendly reminder for our parents for kids:
A. Ages 0-2 no screen time (exception video chatting with parental supervision)
B. Ages 2-5 no more than 1 hour per day
C. Ages 5-18 no more than 2 hours per day
D. 20-20-20 RULE- take a break every 20 min looking 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
E. Spend 2 hours outdoors to offset getting glasses.