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Too much screen time may increase kids' risk of vision problems, study finds

Experts worry about the potential long-term eye health complications for kids

Screen time concept with child and laptop
Photo (c) Peter Dazeley - Getty Images
As kids’ screen time has skyrocketed in recent years, reports have surfaced about the risks associated with too much time in front of devices

Now, researchers from Anglia Ruskin University have found that too much time in front of screens can impact kids’ vision. According to findings from their recent study, screen time can increase kids’ risk of nearsightedness, or myopia, by up to 80%.

“Around half the global population is expected to have myopia by 2050, so it is a health concern that is escalating quickly,” said researcher Rupert Bourne. “Our study is the most comprehensive yet on this issue and shows a potential link between screen time and myopia in young people.” 

Risks of screen time

The researchers analyzed data from more than 3,000 studies that included data on infants as young as three months old and adults as old as 30 years old. All of the studies tracked how time in front of screens impacted eyesight. After analyzing the data, the team identified a relationship between excessive screen time and the risk of developing nearsightedness. 

This was particularly true when kids spent a lot of time on multiple devices; spending excessive time in front of a laptop and a smartphone was linked with an 80% risk of developing nearsightedness. Even when a smartphone was the only device being used, children were still 30% more likely to develop myopia. 

While many parents were worried about excessive screen time prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last year and a half has significantly impacted kids’ relationships with devices. As school and socializing moved online, time spent in front of screens was mandatory. The researchers worry about the long-term effects that this shift online can have on kids’ vision. 

“This research comes at a time when our children have been spending more time than ever looking at screens for long periods, due to school closures, and it is clear that urgent research is needed to further understand how exposure to digital devices can affect our eyes and vision,” Bourne said. “We also know that people underestimate their own screen time, so future studies should use objective measures to capture this information.” 

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