WASHINGTON — Whether it’s a computer at school or a video game at home, kids are getting a lot of screen time, leaving parents concerned that all that close-up focusing could be harming their vision.
Research is underway to determine the long-term impact. But around the world, statistics show a dramatic increase in nearsightedness, and some experts think there may be a link.
“One of the theories is more work at near leads to the brain focusing the eyes at near,” said Dr. Michael Repka, a pediatric ophthalmologist with the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins.
In the 1970s, 25 percent of Americans ages 12 to 54 were myopic. By 2004, it was up to 41.6 percent, with much higher rates reported in other parts of the world, most notably in Asia where cases of myopia have skyrocketed.
While a true cause and effect has not been documented, Repka said parents should keep watch on their kid’s screen time.
“The reality is screens are part of life today and they are not going to be able to exclude it no matter how much they wish to do that,” said Repka, who advocates working in regular breaks to enable kids to ship their visual focus farther away.
He said vision health is just another reason why kids should be spending more time outside because they can relax their eyes while focusing on things that are far more distant than a computer screen.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has taken a similar stand. Its 2013 guidelines recommend no more than two hours per day of any type of entertainment screen time for kids between the ages of 3 and 18, and none for children 2 and younger. It based its recommendations on a series of concerns ranging from obesity to attention problems.