Column: Are phones and tablets harming our children’s eyesight?

Rene Moor, director of Observatory the Opticians.

Rene Moor, director of Observatory the Opticians. - Credit: Archant

Kids seem to spend endless hours on smartphones, games consoles, computers and tablets these days. Is it harming their eyesight?

Rene Moor, optometrist at Observatory the Opticians.

Rene Moor, optometrist at Observatory the Opticians. - Credit: Archant

There has been a massive rise around the globe in short-sightedness, or myopia, over recent decades. One theory is that lack of natural light seems to be the key issue. This is a side effect of children spending more time indoors on electronic devices, rather than playing outside in natural light. Therefore the concern is that all close work - like playing with tablets and phones - carries the potential that it could make children more short-sighted.

Trying to stop screen use, however, is probably an unrealistic aspiration. Children are expected to do their school homework on laptops and tablets and they do their searches for background information on computer screens. So it is unlikely that we will be reducing screen use, really, in years to come.

The best thing to do, is to get children playing outside as much as possible. On average across the week, two hours a day outdoors would be beneficial. A healthy diet is also an area where families can help with eyesight. Oily fish, fresh fruit and green leafy vegetables are especially good for the eyes.

Regular eye examinations are also vital and are funded by the NHS for under 19s in full time education.

Signs that your child may be short-sighted include needing to sit near the front of the class at school because they find it difficult to read the whiteboard; sitting close to the television; complaining of headaches or tired eyes and regularly rubbing their eyes.

Short-sighted eyes are slightly too long, which means light rays focus in front of the retina, at the back of the eye, so distant objects appear blurred, but close objects are seen clearly. This is solved by wearing spectacles or contact lenses which refocus the light to the correct point and will easily be determined through an eye examination by your local optometrist.

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Rene Moor BOptom MCOptom


Observatory The Opticians