Children wearing glasses is a common sight nowadays. We see far more children, some as young as 2-3 years old, wearing glasses as compared to a decade ago. Increased awareness among parents and improved access to healthcare has resulted in more children being examined and diagnosed with refractive errors at an early age. But still, it cannot be denied that there is a definite and substantial increase in the incidence of refractive errors in children.
There are many causes behind this but one of the most important factors appears to be the increased amount of near activity in children. Children are now initiated into schooling at a younger age (as early as two and a half years); reading, writing, drawing and other forms of near work are introduced early in the curriculum. The amount of time spent in outdoor activity by children is very less. Added to this is the fascination with gadgets like mobile phones, tablets, laptops and video-games which exposes children to an unacceptable level of screen-activity.
The Covid pandemic has added to this challenge because education has now moved online. With schools closed and absence of clarity on when physical teaching may resume, classrooms have now become virtual. This means that a certain amount of screen-time is now unavoidable. Children are confined to their homes, outdoor activities and games are restricted. This has resulted in more time being spent in scrolling mobile phones, playing video-games and watching television. In short, the level of eye strain in children has increased greatly.
This is definitely a cause for concern because it may result in development and progression of refractive error in children. I am listing down a few things which, as parents, we should do for eye care in our children.
I do agree that all that I have listed is easier said than done. With pressures of work from home jobs and household chores it is difficult to devote so much of time to children, monitor what they are doing and engage them in activities which do not involve near work or screen- time. Times are challenging, no doubt, but it is important that we must make a conscious effort to adapt to what is going to be the ‘new normal’ for months to come and do everything possible to ensure good health for ourselves and our children.
Dr Sudha Seetharam
Consultant Ophthalmologist, Laxmi Eye Institute, Maharashtra
Teleconsultant on Med India
Author: “Self-assessment and Review of Ophthalmology” for MBBS students