Growing number of children becoming nearsighted, screen time could be to blame

NOW: Growing number of children becoming nearsighted, screen time could be to blame

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) – More children are struggling to see clearly than in years past.

According to one study, school-aged children who spent seven hours or more a week using computers or mobile video games tripled their risk for myopia or better known as nearsightedness.

“We’re using those muscles for a longer period of time and engaging in those activities for a much longer period of time too,” Aurora Health Care Optometrist Dr. Kent Haefs said. “It will put certain kinds of stress and strain on the eye itself that maybe other decades didn’t have.”

With myopia, you have a harder time seeing objects from a distance. For kids, this could mean having trouble seeing the board in a classroom.

“We screen about 200,000 children every year and we refer about 20,000 children every year,” Prevent Blindness Wisconsin executive director Tami Radwill said. “The hope is that we get the children to go get an eye exam.”

Prevent Blindness Wisconsin employees and volunteers visit schools across the state to screen kids to help spot any eye issues as soon as possible. Last week, they were doing screenings at St. Anthony’s School in Milwaukee.

For one volunteer, the issue hits close to home.

“We never really had our thumb on the pulse of this issue until it happened to our own children,” Adam said.

A study published in the American Academy of Ophthalmology in 2016, suggests that half of the world’s population will be myopic by 2050. Currently, around 9 million people in the U.S. are severely myopic. According to the study, people with severe myopia are at risk for other conditions that can lead to vision loss later in life.

Concerned parent and Prevent Blindness Wisconsin volunteer Adam says he has an important message for parents.

“If a parent notices any strain on their child’s eye it would pay off to do a simple eye exam,” he said.

Doctors say one way to lower the risk of myopia is to limit the amount of time a child spends looking at screens. It is also important to make sure you and your children are getting diversity with your eyesight through other activities like playing outside.

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