It is now a very common sight to spot kids as young as one-year-old staring at the glaring screens of smartphones. Be it for watching cartoon videos or educational poem songs, or games or clicking a picture, an infant these days knows his/her way through these technically advanced cell phones better than elders many times. This generation in all manners is certainly the digital age generation. While this might be considered a thing of pride often among parents who see their little child working through the phone better than their own self, they hardly take note of the harmful effects they are exposing their child to. More often than not, it is the parents who introduce the child to smartphones in order to let the child stay distracted or engaged in the phones while they can feed the child or even do their own work. What the parents miss is that this frequent short term engagement is the root cause of many long term problems with the child’s mental, physical as well as emotional well-being.
Doctors have presently noticed a rising number of instances of myopia in children that too in very younger ages. Myopia, also known as near sightedness, is a condition in which close objects appear clear but the far ones look blurry. Myopia can develop rapidly or even eventually. People with myopia tend to experience a blurred or distorted vision, squinting or strained eyes. It has been observed that parents with myopia are more likely to have children with myopia. While children with myopia tend to have parents with myopia, it is not strictly a genetic condition.
There has not been any specific reason to understand why some children become near-sighted and others do not.
Factors that can cause myopia in children are:
1. Heredity: Having one or both parents myopic
2. Spending more time near work
3. Higher school achievements – being more of a bookworm
4. Reduced time in sports activity
Doctors have observed that a major tendency for myopia to run in families is also because of a shared intense environment near work. That is to say that myopia passes on to the younger generations not really due to shared genes but due to this inherited near work practice. Parents with myopia generally pass on their own academic standards or love of reading to their children instead of passing on a myopic refractive error itself. While myopia’s cause might not be clear but it is preventable and even treatable.
Myopia can quite easily be treated using eyeglasses /spectacles or contact lenses but once started it will keep increasing with the growth of the child. Myopia might not appear as a dreadful disease but it certainly is a huge hindrance in everyday routine activities and more so for children who get caught up with this problem in early years of their life. Doctors point out that the reason for increasing instances of myopia in early childhood years these days is digital shift of the enhanced usage of smartphones. The screens have a significant impact on the tender eyes of children but parents these days don’t realize it. Another issue of the increased problem is that it is not addressed timely. Experts highlight that one of the major ways to reduce the risk of myopia is to encourage the child to step out for some physical activity more frequently. Studies have also concluded that spending more time outdoors may help prevent or reduce the progression of near sightedness in children and parents have the biggest role to play in this.
Dr. Vidhya. C, Consultant, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus Dept., Sankara Eye Hospitals, Bangalore.