With increase in screen time, there is a rise in myopic children – Times of India


Imagine this. 9-year-old Thea Sharma takes her classes online from 9 in the morning to quarter to 1 in the afternoon, with little break between classes. She attends her ballet classes online and in the evening when her parents want to offer her some respite from the structured pattern of the day, she is allowed to watch TV for 30 minutes. This is pretty much how a day in the life of most school children looks like these days. They are attending school online, turning to screen during their leisure time and even attending extra curricular activities online. What it means is that most of their day is spent on screen – which also means digital eye strain.

Digital eye strain is a reality

To understand the impact of screen time on children as well as adults, we spoke to leading eye surgeon and opthamologist Dr Rushad Shroff. “Children and even adults have reported increased watering, redness, irritation in the eyes during the pandemic. There is an increase in myopia among children. Since there is less exposure to sunlight, children are coming to us with refractive disorders.”

Slowing the damage

Talking about the concerning impact of increased screen time on eyes, Dr Shroff says, “Children who are attending classes online clearly have no escape but there are certain things that parents can do to minimise the harm. They need to understand that smaller and brighter screens are bad. They should make the children sit in a bright room, preferably with a desktop or a laptop.” He adds that children who are younger than 2 years should avoid screen time altogether. “Screen dependence at an early age can lead to development and speech delays. It tends to reduce their attention span and socialising pattern.”

Dr Shroff recommends children as well as adults to ensure they have proper lighting coming from behind them while using screen; also their monitors should not have bright light, it should be medium. They should use blue light filters to prevent damage to eyes. He also recommends employees to use bigger fonts to avoid eye strain.

Also, it is extremely important to follow the 20-20-20 rule where every 20 minutes, you take a 20-second break and look 20-feet away for 20 seconds.

Adult children should not be exposed to screen time more than 2.5 hours.

Talking about coronavirus and its impact on the eyes, Dr Shroff shares, “COVID has majorly impacted eyes. People have reported symptoms like conjunctivitis, eye flu due to the infection. The retina team has seen the virus spreading fungal infection inside the eye, leading to significant damage to the retina. This was specifically observed in COVID recovered patients who spent time in the ICU.” He warns COVID patients to be watchful of unusual issues in the eyes.

Proper nourishment

Talking about the importance of diet, Dr Shroff recommends a healthy nutritional diet. Omega 3 fatty acids help greatly in treating dry eyes. “Take two teaspoons of flaxseed everyday; fish is also a healthy addition to the diet. Children should have a Vitamin A rich diet and adults should be careful about their Vitamin D and B12 levels – people can focus on eating soya, pulses, green leafy vegetables.”

The solution

While it may seem like an easy option to allow screen time to keep the children busy or keep their tantrums down, a lot of us are causing them more harm than we realise. Limiting screen time, ensuring a healthy diet, proper exposure to sunlight and focusing on eye health by making regular eye check appointments are all crucial for your well being and also of your child.

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