What too much screen time is really doing to your kids

Published: 05 September 2016

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The number of short-sighted children has almost doubled during the past five years, all thanks to our growing addiction to technology.

According to reports staring at handheld devices such as phones, tablets or computers is making children half blind with Optometry Australia president Kate Gifford warning parents to limit their child’s screen-time.

She is urging parents to trade in ‘screen time’ for ‘green time’, recommending kids play outdoors for at least 90 minutes a day.

Ms Gifford said children are spending too much time on smaller screens which means they are holding them closer to their faces, and is worse than watching TV.

Meanwhile, kids who spend more than three hours a day reading, doing homework or playing with handheld devices are two to three times as likely to become short-sighted.

“When you’re telling your eyeballs all the time that your whole world is only 50cm in front of them, the eye adapts to that,” Ms Gifford said.

She noted children’s eyeballs grow too quickly when they strain their eyes by looking at something ‘close-up’ which results in blurred vision.

The number of 12-year-olds suffering short-sightedness has sky-rocketed from 11.5 percent in 2005 to 18.9 percent in 2011.

In addition, short-sightedness among Caucasian children doubled during that period while half of 12-year-old children of an Asian background now require glasses for myopia.

Ms Gifford argues spending time in the sunshine might help reduce these figures.

“It’s important for parents to think about what they’re doing on weekends and plan outdoor activities,” she said.

“It doesn’t even have to be playing sport. Walk the dog, ride a bike, play in the backyard or have a picnic. It’s the exposure to natural light that’s important.’’