Only 49% of parents recognised that the amount of time their children sat in front of a screen could have a major impact on their long-term eye health.
That's the conclusion of an American report which also revealed that only 45% of parents recognised that reading in poor light could have a negative impact, whilst just 30% saw going out in the sun without sunglasses as a problem. On a more positive note, 70% of parents made their children wear protective glasses when working with tools whilst 61% got their children to cover up when playing shooting games.
Why the concern about screen time? Well, various studies have shown there is a link between excessive screen time and myopia. One Spanish study concluded that increased time spent on near activities and using digital devices was associated with higher rates of myopia and lower rates of myopia were also seen in children who spent more time outdoors.
Ensuring your child has a good amount of sleep will also help to keep their eyes healthy. Also, don't neglect the importance of teaching your children about good hand hygiene from an early age. Dirty hands rubbed into the eyes can lead to infection or scratches.
Aside from these areas, what else can parents do to keep their child's eyes healthy? First, ensuring that children eat a rainbow of fruit and vegetables can also make a difference in eye health. In particular, fruit such as oranges or strawberries can help to boost levels of vitamins C and E, which can help the eye to recover from minor injuries as well as help protect the lens from UV light. Leafy green vegetables and carrots are also crucial as they contain vitamin A which can help to prevent night blindness and contribute to the long-term health of the eyes. Getting children into the habit of eating leafy greens also increases the number of anti-oxidants and specific protective pigments which support the retina long-term, protecting against diseases like AMD (macular degeneration) in later life.
Our final recommendation for healthy eyes is awareness. Making sure your child has regular eye examinations is vital to identify any developing problem as soon as possible. Parents should also look out for developing eye health problems in between examinations. Obvious signs might include squinting or being unable to see at a distance. Less obviously, if a child becomes less interested in joining in ball or other games or starts struggling at school, then don't discount the fact that they may be doing so due to an increasing level of myopia or other problems affecting their sight.
If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.