Date Posted: February 18, 2019
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Optometrist Emphasizes Importance of Screen Time Limits for Schoolchildren
Clarendon Hills, IL – October 31, 2018– Dr. Spokas sees all types of vision problems in her optometry practice, but one area of increasing concern from parents is schoolchildren’s exposure to screens.
“It seems like literally overnight children went from using screens occasionally or often to using screens the majority of their days,” Dr. Spokas says, citing a recent report in The Lancet Child and Health.
More and more children are now using computers and tablets at school. In some cases, students use tablets or computers to complete all of their homework in addition to using these devices during the school day. When you add in the way screens are used by most young people for recreation, it’s a lot of screen time.
Dr. Spokas has a unique perspective on screen time and its impact on vision in school-aged children. One area of particular concern is the increasing incidence of myopia. “We’re in a myopia epidemic, truly. While children with one or both parents who have myopia or nearsightedness are more likely to develop myopia themselves, the real concern is that we’re seeing the incidence of myopia increase even without family history. This is particular worrisome for us because myopia leads to an increased risk of sight-threatening conditions like retinal detachment, cataracts, and glaucoma. These are very serious conditions that can lead to permanent vision loss.” Dr. Spokas says.
So are computers and tablets and other screens to blame for the myopia epidemic?
Dr. Spokas says, “Well, yes and no. There are several possible factors that contribute to nearsightedness. There has been a change in focusing demand for all people. For example:
Near activities, especially prolonged near activities like reading increase focus demands whether that activity is done with a paper book or electronic screen. Most near work is done indoors.
Focusing demands indoors are much greater than focusing long distance outdoors.
There are a number of benefits to spending more time outdoors. Aside from the well-known benefits of increasing Vitamin D levels, the amount of luminescence (200x greater outdoors) may help decrease nearsightedness.”
School includes plenty of reading and other close work, but for schoolchildren in Illinois, this has traditionally been balanced with a state-wide physical education requirement. Studies show that outdoor time in recess or PE as well as any sort of physical activity that requires distance vision and hand-eye coordination, like what is done in typical PE classes, seems to protect children from developing or worsening myopia. Illinois was one of the first states to require daily physical education classes, but Illinois students may see PE programs scaled back or cut due to changes in state law that were implemented in 2017.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has updated media tips and suggestions and a Media Use Plan tool available on their website. The CDC has infographics by age that address how much screen time American children are getting, and what they could be doing instead.
And in the meantime, Dr. Spokas encourages sensible screen time limits, and plenty of outdoor play. “Keeping to age-appropriate guidelines for screen time is a good place to start. I also encourage everyone in my practice, including the adults who see us, to get time outside every single day. We don’t know all of the factors that are creating this myopia epidemic, but we do know that outdoor time seems to have a protective effect.”
Dr. Monika Spokas
760 Pasquinelli Drive Suite 300
Westmont, IL 60559
(630) 323 – 7300