Screen Time Is Increasing, and So Is Nearsightedness

By Valeria Hadrovic, AGE 10

Photo: Bruce Mars, Unsplash

Are you spending as much time outside as your parents did when they were kids? Do you and your friends spend more time on screens than playing outside? More and more people are becoming nearsighted—known as myopia—developing this vision problem at younger ages because of prolonged screen time, such as on iPads and computers.

Nearsightedness is when close things are clear but distant things are blurry. For example, you can read a book clearly but have trouble seeing while driving. According to the World Health Organization, in 1971, 25% of people had myopia, but in 2017, that number increased to 42%. Today, 80% of teens and young adults in China have myopia. If no changes happen, half the world will be nearsighted by 2050.

Nearsightedness used to be determined through genetics, but experts now agree that it can also be from lifestyle. Dr. Maria Liu, an associate professor of clinical optometry at the University of California, Berkeley, said that the best way to protect children against early myopia is to limit screen time and get them playing outside. “They need to play with real toys,” Dr. Liu explained to NPR. “They need to engage in real outdoor life.”

Liu suggests taking regular outdoor breaks, scanning the horizon for three to five minutes for our distance vision, exercising it, as screen time prevents us from using our long-distance vision. Sunlight itself is also good at preventing myopia. So get outside and look at the world around you!

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