Previous studies have already indicated that watching too much TV can actually kill you. And another recent study found that while parents may think that they’re abating their children’s temper tantrums by distracting them with iPhones, this easy fix has some seriously concerning consequences later down the line. Now, a new study published in Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, indicates how crucial it is to limit your child’s screen time—as well as your own.
The study analyzed the data of 1958 children aged 7 to 12 years-old and found that 27.7 percent of those who did not have myopia, or nearsightedness, developed the condition between 2010 and 2013. These results are troubling to those who are aware of the myopia epidemic spreading worldwide. Back in the 1950s, only 10 to 20 percent of the Chinese population was nearsighted; today, up to 90 percent of teenagers and young adults are. According to the National Eye Institute, 42 percent of Americans ages 12-54 are nearsighted, up from 25 percent in 1971. Some estimate that, by the end of this decade, one in every three people around the world will have blurry distance vision.
Though genetics plays a role in myopia, scientists believe that the dramatic rise of myopia over the last few decades is due to the fact that people are spending more time reading or staring at screens and less time outside. While there’s still a debate about whether or not blue light from screens damages eyesight, we do know that we don’t blink as often when using digital devices as we do when we’re not, which puts a strain on our eyes.
To combat this, K. David Epley, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, suggests enforcing a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of screen time, rather than springing for reading/computer glasses or contacts.
“I prefer to teach kids better habits, instead of supplying them a crutch like reading glasses to enable them to consume even more media,” Epley said in a press release. “If you run too far and your legs start hurting, you stop. Likewise, if you’ve been reading too long or watching videos too long, and your eyes start hurting, you should stop.”
As you prepare to send your children to school this September, consider these top ten tips from the American Academy of Ophthalmology on how to prevent your kid from developing myopia. And don’t forget that the condition isn’t limited to kids, which means you might want to adopt some of these habits yourself! And to learn more about the ways technology is affecting our children, discover Why Traditional Clocks Are Disappearing from Classrooms.
1 Set a Timer
Set a kitchen timer or a smart device timer to remind yourself to take a break for every 20 minutes you or your kid spends staring at a screen. And while you’re at it, try moving around. After all, sitting has been dubbed “the new smoking.”
2 Look Up After Every Few Chapters
Experts suggest alternating between reading real books and e-books, as well as looking up and out of a window after every two chapters.
3 Plan Your Leisure Time Around a Window
They also suggest looking out a window for 20 seconds after completing a level in a video game, which means it might be wise to position the couch or chair on which you or your child spend the most time reading or using digital devices near a window.
4 Pre-Mark Books
Use the bookmark device on an e-book or place a paper clip after every few chapters of a real book to remind yourself or your child to take a break.
5 Avoid Using Computers In Direct Sunlight
Because Americans spend 90 percent of their time indoors, there’s been a push as of late to creating outdoor workspaces for adults. And while working outside has been proven to have a variety of physical and psychological benefits, it’s important to avoid brightly lit areas, as the glare of your computer screen causes eyestrain.
6 Practice Good Posture When Reading or Using Digital Devices
Studies have found links between bad posture and the progression of myopia, so practice sitting up straight and encourage good posture in your child. In addition to benefiting your vision, it’ll also prevent you or your kid from developing tech neck.
7 Hold the Device Far Away
Oftentimes, you see people glued so close to the screens on their iPhones that it’s practically on their face. The ideal length between your digital device and your eyes is 18 to 24 inches.
8 Adjust the Brightness on Your Screen
Make it whatever level is most comfortable for you or your kid. A low battery is infinitely preferable to bad vision.
9 Create a Distraction
When all else fails, experts suggest literally dropping something in order to make your kid look up from his or her screen.
10 Spend More Time Outdoors
Scientists still aren’t sure why this is the case, but spending time outdoors has been proven to prevent the onset of myopia. It should be noted that being outside has a wide range of other physical and psychological benefits as well. For more on this, check out The Secret Health Benefit to Country Living You Never Knew About.
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