More kids than ever are becoming nearsighted and while the first suspect that fingers get pointed at is screen time, it turns out there is another culprit that may be causing problems for eyesight. Sunlight. Yup, it’s not those three hours of Peppa Pig every week (thank goodness because, guilty!)
Nearsightedness is usually a genetic trait that is passed down from parent to child but some environmental factors can accelerate a myopic condition or create the perfect fertile ground to cause it. Many researchers believe that screen time may be a factor in why there has been a sharp increase in kids needing corrective lenses, according to USA Today, that figure of kids needing glasses is as high as 45%. But they note that screen time isn’t ruining eyes, it’s the lack of full-spectrum light from the sunshine that is giving kids’ eyes such a hard time.
The argument goes like this, when kids don’t get outside enough and they are bent over a screen that is generally held closer to their eyes than a book might be, then the muscles in the eyes must flex harder and for longer periods of time to see the screen.
Scientists also note that something about full-spectrum light from natural sunshine appears to help prevent and even correct sight problems, however, they aren’t sure why or how. They also point out that this exposure to natural light will help correct sight issues no matter how much screen time a person has.
Kids between the ages of 4 and 12 are showing the sharpest increase in the diagnosis of nearsightedness and what’s worrying is that once kids need glasses, their eyes tend to get worse, not better.
To keep healthy eyes, it is wise to limit screen time and when using screens, keep them away from your child’s face so that they’re not looking down and straining the muscles in the eyes. Other lifestyle choices like getting outside, reading books, and eating a healthy diet can all play a role in healthy eyes.
But if your child does need glasses then don’t worry. There are a few ways that doctors can help correct eyesight that goes beyond wearing new glasses. Kids can use prescription eye drops called atropine, or even wear corrective contact lenses called Ortho-K at night that actually work to reshape the eyeball helping to repair myopia.
Having been nearsighted my whole life, I can say that myopia can be a real drag. Thankfully, researchers better understand the condition now than they did when I was a kid and there are more options available now to prevent or correct a sight problem.