Increased screen time from cell phones, gaming, social media, and digital entertainment has resulted in a rise in sedentary behavior, poor diet, and lack of outdoor time. It's not just the screen time that is the problem. It's the lack of outdoor activities. Experts have been studying the effects of our environment when it comes to our eyesight, particularly the outdoors.
When a child has two nearsighted parents and does not spend enough time outside, the genetic risk increases by 60% one study revealed. This suggests that our environment plays a role in the development of this vision disorder as well as genetics.
When spending time outdoors you are forced to look further into the distance. Outdoor lighting is vital because it slows the axial growth of the eyes. Myopia is thought to occur when there is excessive growth.
Participating in activities like walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, snow-shoeing, skiing, all outdoor activities, and sports are good to preserve eye health year-round. It is recommended everyone wear sunglasses, even toddlers, while outdoors, to protect their eyes from ultraviolet rays. The benefits of outdoor light are preserved even with sunglasses.
Tips to counter the negative effects of using screens on eye health:
- Encourage outside activities as often as possible.
- Have children’s eyes examined by an optometrist by the age of 6-9 months, 2-5 years, and annually 6-19 years.
- Zero exposure to screens for children 0-2 years.
- Limit the use of screens to 1 hour per day until the age of 9 years.
- Breaks no later than after 60 minutes of use (after 30 minutes is encouraged)
At the root of this problem are screens such as tablets and cell phones that play a role in the deterioration of children's eye health.