It is a phrase that many people have heard a parent say before, but may not understand completely. The importance of how close we look at objects cannot be stressed enough in young children.
Your child may want to sit close to the TV (or other objects) if they have uncorrected nearsightedness (or myopia). Myopia means your eyes naturally focus in front of you leading to blurry distance vision. Therefore kids may be moving closer to the TV in order to clear up the image by finding their natural focal point.
Why is this important?
- The most important idea to realize is your child may need correction (glasses or contacts) to see clearly at all distances
- Research has shown 41.9% of children in the U.S. are myopic and myopia is progressive in nature
- Increased near work including computers, reading, cellphones, and tablets has been proven to speed up this progression of myopia.
What does science tell us about our working distance?
In general, the closer an object is to us, the more accommodation or “work” our eyes have to do. A recent study published shows how much more work our eyes have to do when looking at a paper compared to viewing trees outside (See Figure 1). You can see the significant difference in accommodation on the right side when looking outdoors compared to reading a document. If children are working all day at a desk alternating between computer and paperwork, their eyes never get a chance to fully relax.
Figure 1: The first column on the left shows some images we regularly see. The second column in the middle correlates the intensity of light to the distance from our eye (the brighter light the greater the distance). The third column on the right transforms the distance into Diopters (or the measurement of how much accommodation your eyes are doing). Reference
Figure 2. Recommendations on screen time from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
What should I do now?
- Get outside and play – limit screen time as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This can help reduce the amount of work your eyes have to do and reduce the stimulus for progression of myopia
- “20/20/2 Rule” – Take frequent breaks when doing any near work for extended periods of time. Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for around 2 minutes. This will allow your eyes to relax their accommodation, allow you to blink, reset your posture and return to work with less strain on your visual system.
- Find out if your child is myopic – it is best to find out early if myopia is present to act quickly to try to reduce progression. Make sure children have eye exams at 6-12 months, 3-5 years, before starting school and every year after as recommended by the American Optometric Association Clinical guidelines.
- Discuss myopia management with your eye doctor – there are many techniques to reduce progression of myopia including eye drops, soft contact lenses, and Ortho-K.
Contact your eye doctor today if you want to discuss myopia and myopia control – make an appointment today online or call our office.