Increased screen time hurting children’s eyes
Doctors have warned that this could lead to children getting spectacles due to constant exposure, while kids have already started complaining about refractive errors, redness, dryness, itchiness and sore eyesUpdated: Aug 16, 2020 17:12 IST
City doctors are warning parents of the dangers of increased screen time on their children’s eyes due to online classes and restrictions on outdoor sports due to the Covid pandemic.
The screen exposure time which was earlier close to about 30 minutes to two hours has now been extended to about seven to eight hours. Doctors have warned that this could lead to children getting spectacles due to constant exposure, while kids have already started complaining about refractive errors, redness, dryness, itchiness and sore eyes.
Dr Sanjay Patil, ophthalmologist, chairman of the Hospital Board of India, said that there is a 30 per cent increase in children visiting him with complaints like excessive strain on eyes or tiredness. “Patients have complained about dryness or itching in eyes, or tired eyes too. Locked up inside homes and online classes running for hours, homework and other assignments are taking a heavy toll on kids and their eyes,” said Patil.
Dr Mangesh Lingayat, head of paediatrics department, Noble hospital, said, “I have observed that kids come complaining about UV complications and upon further inspection, we get to know that they need spectacles. These are accidental findings.”
Dr Hemant Todkar, consultant ophthalmologist, Apollo Spectra Hospital, said that he has till now attended around 120 cases since June and two out of every ten cases are related to eyes.
“Due to the constant rubbing of eyes, the cornea of children may become thin and result in progressive permanent loss of vision. Moreover, rubbing puts added pressure on the eyes owing to which refractive error that is astigmatism occurs. Astigmatism is a blurred vision caused by an unusually shaped cornea and one will require spectacles. These children are given lubricants or artificial tears to avoid itchiness, dryness of the cornea, and permanent changes in corneal structure,” said Todkar.
Dr Tushar Parikh, consultant, paediatrics and neonatology, Motherhood Hospital, said, “People of all ages blink far less often when concentrating on a screen. Prolonged periods of watching the screen and spending more time indoors have been associated with the development of near-sightedness (myopia). Activities on the ground are not only important from the physical fitness point, but also from eye health. Also, environmental light helps in retina development.”
Advice on eye protection
-Good nutrition that includes food rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids, proper sleep, and reducing electronic gadget exposure of children from the age group of 0-17 for two-and-a-half hours every day.
-Limit screen time and stick to it. Keep a gap of an hour between the end of the screen and sleep. This will help you get a sound sleep.
· Dim the screens of all devices, which should limit the amount of the blue light coming through. Try not to use devices in the darkroom.
· Using your electronic devices outdoors can be even more harmful because the UV radiation from the sun reflects from your smartphone or tablet screen directly onto your face, doubling the impact of dangerous light radiation.
· Encourage your child to engage more in outdoor sports.
· Make sure the screen is positioned so that your child looks slightly down at it, not up. And adjust the lighting to eliminate glare on the screen.
· Make sure you get your child’s eyes examined by an ophthalmologist. All children should undergo routine eye check-up at 1 year and another at preschool at 4 to 5 years.
-Allow children to pursue hobbies of their choices instead of accessing electronic gadgets. Educate children regarding the ill-effects of continuous exposure to the blue light emitted from the gadgets.
· Establish screen-free zones. No smartphone usage for anyone in the family, in the car, or while dining. Parents should make sure that children do not use mobile or any other devices while having meals. Opt for a digital detox and take time free from electronic gadgets.
· 20-20-20 rule: When using a computer or other screens, make sure after 20 minutes look away to more than 20 ft distance for more than 20 seconds. This will reduce eye strain.