Kids, eyesight and screen time

Published 30 Aug 2021

What is near-sightedness (myopia) and how can we support our children’s eyes during times of increased screen time?

Kids are warned that too much TV can cause square eyes. Even though that’s not true, it’s a great reminder of the impact of too much screen time on our eyes. In our new world of staying home and connecting online, it may not be square eyes but, there is a rise in the need for glasses to correct near-sightedness (myopia) caused by excessive screen time.

With lockdowns, stay-at-home orders and, changes to our daily lives, limiting screen time isn’t always possible. GMHBA Eye Care’s optometrist Daniel Strachan explains what myopia is and how we can best support young eyes from screen time impacts.

Why do I need to know about myopia?

Myopia or near-sightedness is a common vision condition in which you can see objects near to you clearly, but those farther away are blurry.

Myopia has been gaining media attention recently due to the rise of device use, particularly by children and toddlers, and we are seeing an increase in the number of young children becoming short-sighted. This is concerning as short-sightedness poses significant risks for the development of different eye diseases later on in life such as retinal detachment, myopic maculopathy, cataract and, glaucoma.

For this reason, preventing myopia in children, or at the very least keeping it to a minimum, is crucial in preserving vision through to adulthood. The good news is optometrists and parents now have a range of options at their disposal to reduce myopia progression.

How can I support my child to prevent myopia?

Genetic and environmental factors will always impact a child’s eye health, but there’s steps parents can take to support the development of young eyes.

Know your own eyes

Genetics and ethnicity will play a part in the likelihood of your child developing myopia. If a child has one parent with myopia they are three times more likely to also develop myopia. This increases up to six times more likely when two parents have myopia.

If either of these factors impact your family regular eye health checks should be part of your yearly routine.

Early intervention

The earlier a child develops short-sightedness the faster it is likely to progress and often results in higher levels of myopia in early adulthood. Children are never too young to have their first eye health check and should have their first check before starting school.

Limit time spent indoors

Children who become short-sighted often spend less time outdoors. It is recommended that children should aim for at least 90 minutes of outdoor time daily.

Lower incidences of myopia (and slower rates of eyesight deterioration) are consistently being reported in children who spend high levels of time outdoors.

Limit near work activity and have breaks

Children should not be discouraged from near tasks, but rather focus breaks should be encouraged by following the 20/20/20 rule.

The 20/20/20 rule involves 20 minutes of close work followed by a 20 second ‘focus break’. A focus break is giving your eyes a break from focusing, and could include looking at something in the distance like a clock on the wall or a tree outside.

Encourage your children to work 20cm from their space, or hold their book/paper/screen at arm’s length.

How can I learn more?

Read more about children’s eye checks and building them into your beginning of the year routine.
• Learn about correction options for myopia.
• Not used to getting your eyes tested? Learn more about what to expect at an eye health check.
• Contact GMHBA Eye Care to book an eye test for your child.