Research in Asia shows that in the big cities 90% of the students leaving school have to wear spectacles due to myopia (nearsightedness). The reasons given are too much hard work for school, far too little exposure to daylight, and lack of time spent outdoors.
Recent research in The Netherlands shows a steep increase in myopia (nearsightedness) among 20 year old students (Klaver, 2017). Myopia is the eye disorder with the most rapid increase in prevalence worldwide. In 1990 only 5% of the school leavers in The Netherlands suffered from myopia. In 2017 this has risen to 50%, and this is likely to increase. It develops in childhood, with a peak incidence between the ages of 13 to 15 years. Myopia developed in childhood cannot be reversed.
The main reasons given for the steep increase is the frequent use of social media on smartphones and iPads, and og computers in general. Children use their eyes too one-sided, namely for nearsight mainly. This results in eyes that change shape to accomodate for this effort. Another negative side-effect of the use of digital devices is the fact that the eyes become too dry. We blink only 10% of the normal amount when watching at a screen.
Other causes, related to the use of digital devices, are a decrease in hours spent outdoors and the decrease in exposure to daylight. In childhood the eyes need both daylight and the exposure to farsightedness.
How can we reverse the myopia epidemic?
Researchers and experts on eyesight have developed a rule-of thumb.
20-20-220 minutes working on a screen
Take a break of at least 20 seconds
Spend at least 2 hours a day outdoors
Additional smart rules for parents and teachers to prevent myopia and other eye problems are:
- Young children (< 6) should not work more than 20-30 minutes a day on a screen.
- The SmartBoards in classrooms should be turned off regularly.