The global pandemic has forced many children indoors causing a rapid rise in screen time. As screen time accelerates, so does concern among parents about the impact on their children’s eyesight.
Screen Time & Myopia
A new study from JAMA Ophthalmology confirms parental concern about myopia during home confinement. Researchers recently analyzed nearly 200,000 school-based vision screenings among 125,000 children, ages 6−13, in Feicheng, China. The study shows that home confinement due to COVID-19 appears to be associated with a substantial myopic shift in young children, aged 6−8. In fact, the prevalence of myopia (nearsightedness) sharply increased 1.4 to 3 times in 2020, compared with the previous five years. The authors note that younger children may be more sensitive to environmental changes, given they are in a critical period for eye growth and myopia development.1
“There is a lot of buzz among eye care professionals about the JAMA study and parents of young children are definitely ready to have conversations about screen time,” says Justin Kwan, OD, FAAO, CooperVision Senior Manager of Myopia Management. “We know that the younger children are, the faster their myopia progresses and ultimately, the greater the risk.”2
Since some school-based vision screenings may not have been conducted in 2020 due to the pandemic, we could possibly see an uptick in children whose myopia accelerated over the long winter months spent indoors—a lifestyle factor in the development of myopia and its progression.
What You Can Do
As screen time surges and new research findings are published, we encourage parents to continue scheduling annual comprehensive eye exams and to keep an eye on behaviors related to screen time such as excessive time indoors and “near work” activities that may play a role in the development of myopia.3,4 To assess your child’s risk of developing myopia, check out CooperVision’s myopia risk assessment tool. Annual comprehensive eye exams are also important to evaluate the entire visual system, eye health, and catch myopia at the earliest time possible.