by Janet

A generation ago, children were often told by their parents:

“Don’t sit so close to the TV, you’ll get square eyes!”

While this was blatantly untrue, today there is mounting concern over a very real problem.

There’s been a noticeable rise in myopia in children – and it’s mainly due to the popularity of digital devices.

What is Myopia?

If you’ve never heard the term “myopia”, you’re certainly not alone.

According to a recent report from Optometry Australia, one in three people have never heard of it – despite the fact that is now the most common vision problem globally, with experts predicting that half of the population will be myopic by 2050.

Myopia (also known as short-sightedness, or near-sightedness) is a condition that makes it difficult for the individual to see objects that are further away. It typically develops during childhood, and can progress gradually or rapidly.

So how can you know if your child suffers from myopia?

The best way is to take your child to an optometrist for an eye examination – even if they don’t seem to be having problems with their vision.

What symptoms should I look out for?

There are some signs which may indicate that your child is short-sighted (or having other vision difficulties):

  • Constant blinking;
  • Squinting and rubbing their eyes;
  • Struggling to see objects or images from a distance, such as the board in the classroom;
  • Sitting relatively close to the television at home.

Why is Myopia a 21st Century Problem?

While myopia does tend to run in families, certain environmental factors also play a role – such as the constant use of digital devices. It’s never been more important to ensure your child has a healthy balance of both screen time and outdoor time!

Preventing or slowing the development of myopia in your child is possible, with attention to good vision hygiene. As a parent, you can:

  • Ensure your child takes regular breaks from close work every 30 minutes (eg using digital devices, reading, writing, or drawing).
  • Limit smartphone usage, thus avoiding prolonged focus on a closely held object.
  • Check that your child is doing their homework and reading in sufficient lighting (not too dim).
  • Encourage a minimum of two hours of daily outdoor play and activities.
  • Make sure that your child is not using a digital device in poor lighting (eg in bed).

Finally, the best way to take care of your child’s vision and eye health is to take them to the optometrist for a checkup every couple of years – even if they aren’t displaying signs of discomfort, or saying that they find it hard to see. Eye examinations are usually bulk billed, yet a third of parents recently admitted that they had never taken their child to an optometrist.

With our vision being considered the most valuable of our senses by many Australians, we need to do more to promote good eyesight in our children!