Experts suggest limited use of devices by children to save eyesight

DHAKA, Oct 13, 2018 (BSS/UNICEF FEATURE) – Experts suggested keep a watchful eye on use of digital devices including television, mobile, tablets, by the children as it can damage their eyesight.

“Normally school going children who spent more time on computers or mobile phones, are in triple risk of getting affected by myopia or nearsightedness,” the President of Ophthalmological Society of Bangladesh (OSB) Dr Deen Mohammad Noorul Huq told BSS.

Myopia or nearsightedness is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus to see images clearly. In myopia, close objects look clear but distant objects appear blurred, he said.

“Children, who use mobile phones for long time, have a possibility of developing non-malignant tumor in the brain or ear. Children absorb more than 60 percent of the radiation into the brain than adults. Their brain’s thinner skin, tissues, and bones leave them at risk of absorbing the radiation twice than the grown-ups,” Dr Huq added.

Rates of myopia have increased worldwide in recent years, Huq, also the fromer Director General of Directorate General Health Services (DGSH) said adding, “one of the reasons behind this is the kids are spending more time in front of screens.”

“The reason why that’s a problem is not so much because the device is sending some magic signal to the eye that’s damaging it, it’s because when you’re on those devices you tend to be inside your home and not outdoors under the sun,” Ava Hossain, Vice President of Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology (APAO) told BSS.

Sunlight plays an important role in protecting vision, as it triggers dopamine (organic chemical) to send signals to other nerve cells and a neurotransmitter which keeps the eyes safe from getting too elongated during childhood, she said.

Some estimates show that children between the ages of 2 and 8 spend an average of two to three hours a day on screens; experts said adding, “So far, the only solution believed to protect children’s eyes is for them to spend less time on screens”.

“It’s really about limiting the time and encouraging them to go outside in the sun,” Ava Hossain said adding. “No screen protector is going to make any real difference.”

And while sitting too close to the television won’t damage eyesight — that’s an old wives’ tale — it may be a warning sign that your child is suffering from myopia, said the expert.

Other alarming signs include squinting and loss of attention.

To avoid such problems, the experts urged to remove television from the bedroom.

Take the TV out of you and your child’s room. Watching television during bedtime has blamed to influence sleep patterns and lead to less sleep and increased behavior problems, they said.

The experts also urged to ban electronic devices from the dining room. Eating while watching tv or using computers makes kids more likely to consume more calories.