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Kids risk long-term eye problems by being glued to screens

“Just 76 extra minutes outside a day can reduce the risk of myopia by 50 percent."

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Pretty Black Teen Girl Watching a Movie on her Laptop Computer Seriously at Home.
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

By Astrid Cooper via SWNS/72Point

A third of children are spending more than five hours a day on their screens over the summer holidays - which could cause long-term eye damage, experts have warned.

A study of 1,500 parents found four in 10 were completely unaware extended periods of using gadgets, such as tablets or phones, can be a leading cause for eye problems, like myopia - commonly known as short-sightedness.

And only 21 percent feel particularly worried about the overuse of screens and the potential damage they can do.

It also emerged that despite experts warning eye tests are essential to help lower the risk of long-term eye health problems, 31 percent of parents have NEVER had their children’s eyes checked.

And 38 percent don't know the signs or symptoms they should be looking out for if their little one was to have myopia.

While 42 percent were not aware the condition is irreversible or incurable.

Matt Oerding, founder of the Global Myopia Awareness Coalition, an organization challenging parents to reduce their screen time this Bank Holiday weekend, said: “By 2050, 50 percent of the global population are expected to have myopia and we are already experiencing a surge in myopia in children.

“Certain activities can contribute to the progression of myopia, such as increased screen-time, and we know that in the school summer holidays, children may spend a lot of their days off watching TV or playing on devices.

“To support the future of children’s long-term eye health, we want to encourage parents to get their children taking part in ‘sight saving’ activities and screen-free swaps this Bank Holiday weekend.

“Just 76 extra minutes outside a day can reduce the risk of myopia by 50 percent - so let’s start now.”

Optician doing optometry eye exam for black african american teen girl patient. Male optometrist with phoropter while examining patient.
(Blue Titan via Shutterstock)

The study also found 13 percent of parents who haven't taken their children to an eye test thought it would be arranged by the school - but vision screenings at school are not considered a substitute for a comprehensive eye examination.

Ten percent admitted it had quite simply never crossed their mind.

Yet, of those who have never taken their children to the opticians, 35 percent said their child is displaying at least one symptom of possible eye issues, including being disruptive in school (13 percent), needing to sit close to a whiteboard (13 percent) and experiencing headaches (12 percent).

Other symptoms experienced included straining eyes (12 percent), finding it difficult to read (10 percent) and sitting too close to the TV (seven percent).

It also emerged 56 percent would routinely take their child to a check-up with a healthcare professional over an eye test.

While 42 percent are more likely to take their child to a dentist appointment.

But the study also discovered 18 percent don’t monitor or manage the time their child spends on screens.

And 42 percent admitted their child spends more time indoors on their device than outside playing.

Of those who took part in the survey through OnePoll, 41 percent said they now plan on taking their child for an eye test before the new school year starts in September.

Optometrist Dr. Keyur Patel, who is working with GMAC, said: “Myopia is on the rise in children, and has become a global health issue, so regular eye examinations with an optometrist, are important to identify any problems.

“It is an irreversible disease and can be a barrier to a child’s ability to do their best and fulfill their potential.

“The condition will continue to worsen if they do not get help early on, and therefore, it is crucial that children have annual eye examinations.

“It also helps to be aware of any changes in your child’s behavior, like struggling to see the board at school or complaining of tired eyes and headaches, as these are potential signs of myopia.

“Parents, children, and opticians need to work together to protect children’s eye health.”

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