Monday 19 March 2018

Tablets and phones contributing to sight problems in Irish children

Children with tablets
Children with tablets

Sarah Slater

An unprecedented number of children are suffering from short-sightedness, an eye specialist has said.

The primary reason is that they are leading increasingly indoor lifestyles because of the explosion in the use of personal digital devices.

Globally, people are finally realising that there is a direct relationship between increasing levels and higher numbers of new cases of short-sightedness, or myopia, in children due to being indoors too much.

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Irish research into the problem by Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) is due to take place in the coming months.

Don Stack, a leading Irish eye specialist, said the use of tablets and smartphones is contributing to sight problems.

Read more: Tablet devices 'can cause depression in children'

"Over the next decade I suspect we will understand a lot more about the effect that excessive use of devices is having. Here in Ireland there hasn't been enough publicity about this to inform parents of the risks," he said.

"Irish optometrists are planning to work on a nationwide promotion encouraging parents to get their children outdoors.

"I know that parents already know this in regards to the high levels of obesity, but here is yet another important reason to push the children outside."

Researchers in the UK have found that up to 50pc of the university student population is short-sighted, and there is a sixfold increase among children aged six to 13.

Scientists have recommended that children need to spend up to three hours a day in outdoor light.

They also found that the Chinese population has been gripped by an unprecedented rise in short-sightedness.

Sixty years ago, 10 to 20pc of the population was short-sighted. Today, up to 90pc of teenagers and young adults are.

Researchers at the Australian National University in Canberra have conducted a study to examine the relationship between exposure to sunlight during childhood and short-sightedness in young adults.

The amount of childhood exposure to sunlight was estimated using a questionnaire and a type of eye photography known as conjunctival ultraviolet autofluorescence which measures sunlight or UV exposure.

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The results of the study showed the presence of shortsightedness in young adults is conversely related to their exposure to sunlight during their childhood.

"This is simply the latest confirmation of numerous studies that have shown that children's exposure to sunlight has a direct impact on their propensity towards myopia," said Mr Stack.

"The planned Irish promotion to encourage more of an outdoor lifestyle will be based around a Summer Bucket List of ideas for families to do together as well as instructions for games that children can play outdoors, alone or with friends.

Read more: Lack of sleep can greatly affect a child's development

"My wife Niamh and I have five children and it's a battle to get them up and out. We know that we are not the only parents with this problem.

"This national campaign will aid children and teenagers in all aspects of their health."


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