7 July 2019, Dubai – United Arab Emirates:
- With an increase in use of digital technology, Digital Eye Strain (DES) has become more common amongst children
- Up to 20 per cent of children suffer from DES globally
- DES symptoms include eye irritation, a burning sensation in the eyes, headaches and sensitivity to light
With an increasing number of children in the UAE spending more time in front of a screen rather than playing outdoors during the searing summer months, Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai has warned against the dangers of not monitoring screen time for kids over the school holidays.
Irritation, burning sensation, eye strain, headaches, tired eyes and sensitivity to light are just some of the symptoms that children are suffering from, and most of the time it is due to spending too much time in front of a digital screen.
A recent European study reported that by three years of age, 68 per cent of children regularly use a digital device and 54 per cent undertake online activities. Since 1971, the incidence of short sightedness in the USA has nearly doubled to 42 per cent, while in Asia, up to 90 per cent of teenagers and adults are now short sighted.
Dr. Namir Kafil-Hussain, Consultant Pediatric Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital Dubai, says: “As children spend more time glued to digital screens, there is an increasing concern from their parents and health workers about the long-term potential harm to their eye growth.
“DES is a well-recongised condition that has become increasingly prevalent in the last twenty years with up to 20 per cent of children estimated to suffer from it. There are two groups of symptoms; those associated with reduced blinking and dry eyes such as irritation, a burning sensation in the eyes, eye strain, headaches, tired eyes, sensitivity to light, and those associated with focusing such as blurred vision at near, blurred vision at distance after digital device use and difficulty in re-focusing.”
Dr. Hussain pointed out that Moorfields Eye Hospital receives several children with problems related to excess screen time, he says: “It has been advised that children and adolescents should not have screen time for more than two hours per day. However, this guidance can be very challenging for students who do most of their homework in front of computers.
“Too much screen time leads to increased light exposure, especially blue light, which can lead to deprivation of sleep and reduction of alertness the next morning.”
Here, Dr. Hussain provides 10 tips to aid parents in protecting their children’s sight:
- Set up a daily screen time limit. It is advisable to use a kitchen timer or a phone timer as a reminder.
- After completing a level of video game, advise the child to look through a window for 20 seconds (20 seconds break for every 20 minutes play).
- Alternate between a real hard copy book and e-books.
- Encourage outdoor activities such as playing sports and swimming. Sunlight has shown to slow the progression of short-sightedness.
- Adjust the brightness and contrast of your child’s device.
- Avoid using devices outside in bright light as the glare on screen can create strain.
- Activate the night mode to eliminate blue light emission for a normal sleep pattern and ideally stop screen time for one hour before bed.
- Remind them to blink when watching on a digital screen.
- Encourage the child to hold the device farther away, 18-24 inches.
- Encourage the child to use good posture to reduce neck and shoulder pain.