By Dr Nicholas Altuneg
In today’s digital age, where screens dominate both learning and leisure, a new concern is emerging among families and kids – the rise of Myopia, commonly known as near–sightedness. With screens becoming an integral part of daily life, parents must understand the potential impact of excessive screen time on their children’s eye health.
Understanding Myopia: Beyond the Blur
Myopia is a condition that causes distant objects to appear blurry while close objects remain clearer. The prevalence of myopia is on the rise, with children being particularly vulnerable. Often referred to as the “Myopia Generation,” these young individuals are growing up in an era where digital devices are commonly used.
Recent studies reveal alarming statistics – in some parts of the world, up to 90% of teenagers and young adults are affected by Myopia.
18% of Australians had Myopia in 1978, 32% of the Australian population in 2020 were myopic, and the prevalence of Myopia is forecast to rise to 55% by 2050. If the prevalence of Myopia increased to 50% worldwide by 2050, then 4.8 billion people on the planet would be myopic.
Every extra dioptre of myopia increases the risk of retinal detachment, myopic maculopathy, myopic glaucoma and myopic cataract by 20–30%. High myopia is a leading cause of irreversible vision loss long term.
Risk Factors for Myopia
Myopia is more likely to develop quickly with younger onset of myopia, particularly in children aged between 5–12 years of age.
Race is also a factor, with Asian children having the highest risk of developing Myopia, followed by the Caucasian population and then Hispanic / African–American populations.
Family history is related to Myopia development. If one parent is myopic, then you have a 1/3 chance of becoming myopic, and if both parents are myopic, then there is a 2/3 chance of developing myopia. Interestingly there is a ¼ chance of developing Myopia if neither parent is myopic.
Increased near–focusing time, particularly on digital devices and reduced outdoor time also appear to increase the risk of myopic development.
The Digital Dilemma: A Closer Look
Excessive screen time, both for educational and recreational purposes, has been linked to the onset and progression of Myopia in children. The increased time spent indoors and the reduced exposure to natural light could be contributing factors. The strain on young eyes from prolonged screen use can cause discomfort, fatigue, binocular vision disorders and, in some cases, Myopia.
Beyond Screens: Balancing Act
As parents, it’s essential to strike a balance between screen time and outdoor activities.
Outdoor activities, such as sports, combine the use of natural light with engagement in activities that require looking at distant objects and can reduce the risk of developing Myopia in the first instance.
Research indicates that at least 2 hours a day spent outdoors reduces the risk of developing Myopia when your vision is normal, but it doesn’t help once you become myopic.
Myopia Management: A Proactive Approach
If your child has been diagnosed with myopia, proactive measures can be taken to manage its progression. Specialised spectacle lenses, contact lenses, training lenses and vision therapy may slow down the advancement of Myopia. Regular visits to a Behavioural Optometrist are vital to monitor your child’s eye health and ensure appropriate management strategies are in place.
Myopia management options aim to not only correct vision but also slow down the elongation of the eyeball, which contributes to the worsening of myopia. By starting Myopia management early, you can give your child a better chance at maintaining clearer vision throughout their lives.
A Future with Clear Vision
As parents, we safeguard our children’s wellbeing in this digital age. By encouraging a healthy lifestyle that includes outdoor play, limiting screen time, and scheduling regular eye check–ups, we can collectively combat the Myopia epidemic and nurture a generation with clearer vision and a brighter future.
Empowering Families: Taking Action
Addressing myopia goes beyond individual efforts – it’s a community endeavour. Schools, parents, and healthcare providers can work together to promote awareness about the importance of eye health. By fostering healthy habits and encouraging open conversations about screen time and Myopia, we can ensure that the Myopia Generation grows up with the clarity they deserve.
The Myopia Generation faces unique challenges in the digital age. Still, with knowledge and proactive steps, we can help our children see a future filled with clear vision, boundless possibilities, and a lifelong appreciation for the world around them. By prioritising outdoor activities, managing screen time, and seeking professional guidance, we can empower our children to embrace a world where clear vision paves the way for their success and wellbeing.
This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general eye health topics. It should not be used as a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your health care professional prior to incorporating this as part of your health regimen.
Dr Nicholas Altuneg is a Behavioural Optometrist who has been working on the Central Coast for almost 30 years. He is the co–founder at Eyes by Design, which is in the Kincumber Centre. Appointments can be made by phone 4369 8169 or online at www.eyesbydesign.com.au