Too much tablet and phone use could put young children at risk of eye problems

Digital screens are now a part of everyday life, but parents are being advised that young children need a break.

These days, it’s tough to find a little one who doesn’t know his or her way around a smartphone or tablet, and while a sedentary lifestyle is the best known risk of too much screen time, Corinna Ng is keeping a close eye on her two-year-old son’s sight.

“We know he is genetically more predisposed, since my husband and I both wear glasses,” she said, “so we’re certainly more concerned about his vision and starting his vision checks early on was very important for us.”

Optometrist Dr. Sherman Tung gets a lot of questions from concerned parents about screen time, which even has a name, computer vision syndrome.

He said if we spend a lot of time focusing on something, such as a screen, it can lead to blurred vision, eye strain, dry eyes and headaches.

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At this point, there are no conclusive links between iPad time and long-term damage, but a U.S. study shows the number of nearsighted people is now at 40 per cent, which is up from 25 per cent in the 1970s.

“Is it more environmental, or is it more genetics?” asked Tung. “That’s still ongoing and they’re doing a lot of studies, especially in China right now, seeing what is the cause, and they’re trying to find the way to limit the progression of myopia or nearsightedness. And right now they still don’t know.”

Global News reporter Elaine Yong found the best thing to do is to use moderation.

Try the 20, 20, 20 rule: 20 minutes of screen time, with a 20 second break while focusing 20 feet away. Make sure you have proper lighting, and keep your eyes moist as blinking gets cut to a third when we are staring at a screen.

“Technology is everywhere, we can’t really ban the kids from it, but certainly we can limit the use,” said Ng.

Learn more about computer vision problems.

– With files from Elaine Yong.

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