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Excessive screen time puts kids’ eye health at risk

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Local optometrists are warning that increased screen time for children can impact their eye health and put them at risk of lifelong vision and learning issues.

As the new school year approaches, local health professionals are warning parents, teachers and carers to be wary of safe screen time practices for children to avoid vision damage.

According to Specsavers, research indicates that children aged between 5 and twelve are spending three-and-a-half hours a day on screens which is triple the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendation.

They said this puts the estimated 7100 primary school aged children living in the Bundaberg Region at risk of vision issues if they don't receive regular eye checks.

With children being diagnosed with vision problems younger than ever before, it's suggest eye health tests should be considered an essential element of the back-to-school routine.

Additionally, the Specsavers research found that 90% of primary school teachers said they had witnessed signs of eye strain in their students, such as rubbing eyes, watery eyes, headaches, neck aches, blurry vision and not wanting to read aloud.

Myopia, or short-sightedness, is on the rise globally, with the WHO estimating that 52% of the global population will have myopia by 2050, with an alarming incidence spike amongst children due to time on digital screens.

Sugarland Specsavers optometrist Julie Kim said that while myopia could typically be managed with prescription lenses, if left undiagnosed it could impact day-to-day life.

“As optometrists, we like to encourage parents, carers and teachers to ensure their children have their first eye test before starting school to detect and correct or manage any issues, so they don’t go untreated,” Julie said.

“Children’s eyes are still developing during their schooling years, and they can’t always tell you if they may not be able to see properly.

“If your child complains about headaches, blurred vision, trouble focusing or any other issues with their eyes, I recommend booking an appointment with an optometrist immediately rather than waiting until their next check-up.”

Julie's tips to avoid digital eye strain include:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: This means, every 20 minutes remind children to shift their eyes to look at an object at least 20 metres away, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Take breaks outside and encourage outside play: Research shows that spending two hours outdoors is a protective factor during daylight hours for children developing myopia or short-sightedness.
  • Remind children to blink: Blinking regularly keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out.
  • Keep a bottle of water close by: Your eyes dry out when you’re dehydrated so make sure children are drinking plenty of water throughout the day.

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