Your life and eyes 3 min read

Can the Use of Digital Devices Increase Myopia in Children?

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In this article, we find out how true it is that digital screens can increase the risk of myopia in children. You have no doubt heard the phrase "square eyes" when you were a child and the idea that spending too much time looking at screens can damage your eyes, but how true is it?

There is a common belief that spending too much time on a computer, smartphone or watching television can cause problems with your vision. Likewise, if you use computers frequently for work, you might be worried if it negatively impacts your eyesight. 

Myopia is a common refractive error that many have put down to using digital devices too much. So, is this accurate?

Digital devices and myopia

The most prominent link between digital devices and myopia comes not from the digital screen, but from the action of working up close. Your children will likely spend a lot of time looking at things close-up, such as reading, playing on a tablet or doing homework. It is this that has a more significant impact on their vision.

A child looking at a smartphone screen

Can digital screens cause myopia?

There is some research to suggest that if children spend a lot of time focused on close-up activities, there is an increased probability of myopia. This includes things like reading, watching television or playing on a smartphone. The increased risk of myopia is often linked to urban, sedentary lifestyles that many of us live, which has led to the global epidemic of myopia.

It is helpful to encourage your children to take regular breaks from playing on a digital device. This can ensure they relax their eyes and take a break from focusing and is easily achieved by playing outside or doing another activity that doesn't require intense focus. The easiest way to rest your eyes is to do something that requires looking at faraway objects. Consider balancing their day with indoor and outdoor activities. Research has found that natural light is vital for the development of children's eyes, and a lack of natural light can increase the risk of myopia and remember adequate UV protection when outside!

Child playing outdoors

Eyestrain and digital devices

In adults, there is less risk of developing myopia as the condition usually stabilises during early adulthood. However, you may experience something known as eyestrain. A temporary symptom of looking at a screen for too long, often resulting in your eyes feeling tired or irritated. 

Any close-up task that requires focusing can usually cause eye strain, but it soon disappears once you have taken a break.

In some cases, you might have what is known as progressive myopia, where the condition worsens into early adulthood.

A simple and easy way for you and your children to keep your eyes refreshed and avoid any vision issues is to follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, aim to look at something that is 20 metres away for 20 seconds. Teach your children to do this whether they are at school or home, and follow it yourself in the office.

If you suffer from nearsightedness, there are also glasses specifically designed for preventing and reducing eyestrain.

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