Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

New study: lockdowns linked to worsened myopia progression in children

Photo by Julia M Cameron from Pexels

With digital devices continuing to play an integral role in remote learning, concerns have been raised about whether an increased screen time is to blame for the surging rates of childhood myopia.

A recent study in Hong Kong tracking myopia during the Covid-19 pandemic has explored this, with new research detecting a rise in short-sightedness among 709 children between the ages of six to eight.

This report, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, revealed that the development rate of short-sightedness in children more than doubled during the 2020 lockdowns.

Though it's impossible to determine what exactly is driving this growth, researchers have found substantial changes in children’s lifestyles during Covid restrictions: outdoor time decreased by 68 per cent, and time staring at screens increased by nearly 3-fold (from an average 2.5 hours a day to an immense 7 hours a day).

These findings join an emerging body of research that suggests the global pandemic is driving people to spend more time on screens, which can result in increasing the risk of myopia.

Tips for parents during the pandemic

With many Australian children bouncing between classrooms and home schooling, and many going in and out of lockdown, this can present many challenges. Replacing ‘screen time’ with ‘green time’ is always ideal; but understandably hard to apply given the limitations put in place because of Covid. And let’s face it, sometimes a screen can help to keep restless children in lockdown a little happier!

There are various tips parents can still implement to help reduce the strain caused by screen-based devices, some of which include:

  • Encourage regular breaks. Try implementing the 20-20-20 rule; look at something twenty feet away for twenty seconds, every twenty minutes.
  • Make sure your child’s screen is not being held or positioned too close. Sitting at least an arm’s length away (~60cm) from the computer screen is a great place to start.
  • Avoid using screens in dark lit rooms and position the device so there are no visible reflections coming from windows.

For further information on myopia and children’s eye health, we encourage you to contact your local optometrist here.

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