Pandemic screen time and the effect on children’s eyesight  

Covid and childhood myopia

Children in the UK are twice as likely to be short sighted than 50 years ago and nearly one in five teenagers are now myopic. Yet, these figures may soar as a result of Covid and the extra screen time and e-learning measures adopted during the first couple of years of the pandemic.

Constant screen time changes the shape of eyes; focusing on near objects like our phones or laptops causes the eyeballs to elongate, preventing the eye from bending light in the way it is supposed to and resulting in worsening myopia.

Last year, Chinese researchers tested over 120,000 children aged six to eight that had spent many months confined at home under full quarantine restrictions. They found that myopia and other vision issues increased up to three times compared to the previous five years.

While glasses or contact lenses can correct near vision, there are other issues associated with childhood myopia which makes it important to prevent it worsening. The elongating of the eyeball can cause the retina to thin and crack, leading to irreversible vision loss (myopic maculopathy), as well as increased risk of retinal detachment, glaucoma and cataracts.

Steps you can take to slow down the progression of myopia

  • Take regular breaks: allowing the eyes to regularly rest, blink and lubricate is essential. Adopting the 20-20-20 model could be useful. This advises you to look at a distance of 20 feet, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes.
  • Screen distance matters: if the screen is closer to you the eyes have to work harder to focus on it so it’s advisable to work on a bigger screen that is positioned at arm’s length.
  • Go outside: studies have shown that increased time outdoors decreases the onset and may decrease the progression of myopia.
  • Routine eye exams: an optometrist can identify any vision problems or underlying health conditions and help manage myopia.

Another option is low-dose atropine. Numerous clinical studies have shown low-dose atropine slows down the progression of childhood myopia, with minimal side effects.

For more advice on atropine drops for the treatment of childhood myopia, call 0115 924 9924 to arrange a consultation with Mr Imran Jawaid.