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Article shared from USA Today Written by: Amy Sinatra Ayres

For years, parents have been advised to put strict limits on their kids’ screen time to protect their eyes and general health. But when the COVID-19 pandemic began, laptops and tablets became necessary conduits for schooling, activities and keeping in touch with friends and family. Now, pediatric ophthalmologists say they’re seeing the effects of all that screen time.   

“Kids usually are pretty self-sufficient, and their eyes are pretty tough. But we’ve seen lots of problems this last year, which we’re attributing to the prolonged intense, close work that has been their lives,” says Dr. David Epley, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Kirkland, Wash., and clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Close or near work involves focusing your eyes on a nearby object. “Normally, in school, you’re looking at the board, and then you’re looking up close, and then you’re outside at recess and you’re kind of varying where your gaze is. But with online schooling, the classroom is up close and the homework’s up close. Their friend circles are on a screen up close; their playtime is on a screen up close. It’s really changed the dynamic a bit.”

Epley and Dr. Sylvia Yoo, a pediatric ophthalmologist and assistant professor of ophthalmology at Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, say they have had many young patients complaining of eyestrain or being diagnosed as nearsighted (myopia) or increased nearsightedness since the start of the pandemic. 

Myopia was already a growing problem in the U.S. before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Myopia was already a growing problem in the U.S. before COVID-19, with its prevalence increasing from 25 percent of Americans in the 1970s to 42 percent in the 2000s, says Yoo. “Now in the last year, since kids are using the screen even more because of school … it’s hard to tell kids to decrease screen time,” she says. “This epidemic of myopia seems to be related to just general lifestyle changes where (kids are) just generally spending more time inside using the screen, doing more near activities.”

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All that extra screen time may be causing eye issues in kids

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