So many children are having to do their school work from home. This means more screen time than they would normally get in their average day – especially if their day currently consists of online, live lessons.
This makes limiting screen time more difficult than it was before. It has been proven that too much screen time can raise the risk of developing myopia (short-sightedness). Here are some guidelines to to follow that can decrease the risk:
No screen time. Excessive screen time reduces language development and increases the likelihood of childhood obesity.
Children who are toddlers and pre-schoolers should have a maximum of 1 hour of screen time a day. Higher rates of screen time are associated with less play, poorer social skills, slow language development and increased risk of obesity.
Should be limited to 2 hours of recreational screen time per day. Children are now using screens more during their education, so limiting screen time during entertainment is important. When families pay attention to their media consumption and parents monitor their children’s digital access, the amount of screen time reduces along with positive improvements in sleep and school performance
Spending time on near work and screens is unavoidable in today’s world, especially when children are exposed to screens almost from birth, and are using them at school from younger and younger ages.
Handy rules for the indoor environment
There are three key rules for the childhood visual environment indoors, which are important for both reducing the risk of a child becoming myopic (short-sighted) as well as reducing the risk of fast progression, or worsening, once a child is myopic.
- Take regular breaks from reading – the 20/20 rule (20 seconds break, looking at something 20 feet away, after 20 minutes screen time).
- Don’t hold reading material or screens too close – the elbow rule
- Try to limit leisure screen time to two hours per day in school aged children.
Watch this short video to understand more about promoting healthy children’s visual habits by striking the right balance between indoor close work and outdoor time.
When it comes to healthy visual development, the greatest evil of screens may not be the screen itself – it may be more how closely it’s held and the duration of use.
There have always been ‘bookworm’ children and there has always been myopia; but the dramatic increase in myopia across the world indicates there’s an additional negative influence on the visual development of today’s children. This appears to be a combination of not enough time spent outdoors, and too much time spent on screens and/or looking up close.
Children and adults appear to hold screens closer than books and print material. This makes sense if you think about trying to read a web page or an email from your phone screen! The closer a book or screen is held, the larger the demand on the focussing muscles of the eyes, potentially leading to greater fatigue. Research from Ireland (link) has shown that children using screens for more than three hours a day were almost four times more likely to be shortsighted than those spending less than one hour on screens daily. The biggest negative effects happen at younger ages – 6-7 year-olds who were heavy screen users were five times more likely to be shortsighted than light users, but the margin falls to 21 per cent among 12-13 year-olds.