SCREENTIME WARNING TO SAVE KIDS’ SIGHT
August 22, 2021
Parents are being urged to watch out for signs of eyestrain in their children during home-schooling lessons, as HCF data reveals a 21 per cent increase in school-aged children claiming for glasses or contact lenses in 2020, compared with just five years earlier.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to an increase in reliance on technology for education, work, and leisure, with children in particular spending more time inside, looking at screens.
Claims data from HCF Australia, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund, has also revealed a 28.8 per cent increase in claims for high-school aged students requiring glasses or contact lenses; and a 9.53 per cent increase in primary school aged students in 2020 compared to 2015.
HCF Senior Optometrist Whitney Lam said more young patients were being diagnosed with myopia, or short-sightedness, and that screen time was a contributing culprit.
“Myopia is one of the most prevalent problems HCF Optometrists are managing with younger patients,” Ms Lam said.
“Our Members are telling us they’re increasingly concerned about their kids spending more time on screens, especially during lockdown, and they’re right to be concerned: global studies are now telling us that increased screen time is associated with increased rates of myopia.
“Even though there is no cure for myopia, the earlier you catch it, the earlier you can prevent it from progressing. A big worry for children is the eye health risks later in life, including permanent blindness, but fortunately 90 per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated with early diagnosis.
“Technology is helping so many families get through lockdown. While we can’t escape screens, we do want to help families with the right tips, tools and strategies to firstly identify signs of myopia, and then to slow its rate of progression.”
Ms Lam said parents can help look after their children’s eyesight by following these steps:
- Keep an eye on their eyes: symptoms can include headaches, blurry vision, squinting, or rubbing eyes
- Follow the 20/20/20 rule: every 20 minutes, look into the distance for 20 seconds, and blink 20 times
- An arm away: Keep all devices and reading materials at least an arm’s length away
- Light it up: make sure you’re reading in good light. Poor surrounding light increases eyestrain
- Head outdoors: research tells us that young children who spend more time outdoors are less likely to be short-sighted as teenagers, so ensure your children get at least two hours of outside time a day
Digital wellbeing specialist Dr Kristy Goodwin said children and adolescents’ digital exposure has increased significantly during lockdown periods.
“The online world is their portal for learning, leisure and connection,” Dr Goodwin said.
“I've delivered seminars to thousands of parents, students and teachers throughout Australia during lockdown and a common denominator that many are concerned about is digital eye strain. Children and adolescents are reporting that they’re experiencing an increase in eye strain symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, tired eyes, redness or dry eyes after long periods in front of screens.
“Many children and teens are also reporting feeling digitally fatigued during lockdown and their tech habits can be a contributing factor.
“When children and teens are learning online, whether they’re at school or learning remotely (and also spending their leisure time online) their occipital and temporal lobes, which process the visual and auditory input from digital devices, are working incredibly hard. These two regions take up 40 per cent of the brain’s architecture and is why a concerning number of young people are feeling digitally depleted from remote learning and lockdowns.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Rebecca Page, 0439130400, firstname.lastname@example.org
HCF, Australia’s largest not-for-profit health fund protecting Australians since 1932, covers more than 1.7 million members with health and life insurance, and travel and pet insurance.
HCF Members on eligible extras cover can claim 100% back on a range of prescription glasses or contact lenses, and one free retinal image, through our More For Eyes program.
**While some HCF Eyecare branches are temporarily closed following the New South Wales Government’s announcement of the stay-at-home order, the Chatswood and Bondi Junction branches remain open for emergency eye-testing.