Is too much screen time affecting your child's vision?
OTTAWA -- During this pandemic, kids are spending a lot more time online – and it may be affecting their eyesight.
At-home learning, homework, socializing and games are all taking place on screens right now.
Optometrist Kristen North says she is seeing an increase in the number of kids who need glasses, or who need to change their glasses.
Dr. North says parents are concerned about Myopia in children.
“We do believe that this is linked to that lack of outdoor time, the lack of long-distance viewing, and the increased screen time.”
While trying to limit online screen time can be difficult, Amanda and Eric Devost are doing their best to find a balance for their two children.
“We already know with our son, if he has too much screen time, he gets migraines,” Amanda said.
“We’ve experienced a handful of those episodes during the pandemic.”
After online class, the couple says their son looks forward to playing video games after school too.
“For me, it was like trying to balance the screen time,” Eric Devost said.
A study out of China tested the vision of more than 120,000 children, and it found an increase in Myopia.
The first country to deal with the effects of a lockdown, as well as mass school closures, was China. Officials there shut down several regions beginning in late January of 2020, after the emergence of the virus in the late fall of 2019.
When schools reopened in June, researchers performed eye tests on children aged six to 13-years-old, in 10 elementary schools in Feicheng, China. It was part of a survey that had been going on since 2015. More than 120,000 children have been part of the study.
Researchers compared the prevalence of myopia in each age group in 2020, with the previous years. The study revealed that the amount of children with myopia increased significantly, especially in the 6-8 age range.
The prevalence of myopia in these age groups jumped up by 10-15 per cent in 2020 compared to 2019.
In 2019, only 5.7 per cent of six-year-olds in the study were near-sighted, but in 2020, one in five of the six-year-olds had myopia.
”So the question is… is it related to screen time, or is it something else?” said Dr. Michael Nelson, the president of the Canadian Association of Optometrists.
Dr. Nelson believes while it’s still too early to know if changes are related to screens, you should exercise your eyes by changing focus, and taking breaks.
“If you can get a chance to get up and look far away, and move around - and do something different - do that.”
Dr. Nelson also suggests seeing your optometrist if your eyes bother you.
“If you’re having eye strain, eye fatigue, dryness or something that makes it hard to work on your screen.”
Dr. North suggests setting up your children’s computer room near a window, to encourage looking at a distance.
“So that they can take a break every once in a while and just look outside; long-distance viewing is really the answer, getting away from that close work,” she said.
“In a perfect world, we would limit screen time for children who are developing; so, anyone under the teen years - two hours max a day, but we’re not getting that right now, and we just can’t.”
--With files from CTV's Alexandra Mae Jones.