Parents ‘nonchalant’ on myopia

Parents are “nonchalant” about the risk of their children developing shortsightedness, even though a new study shows children spend up to 14 hours a week at a screen.

Research incorporating the views of 329 parents of 1,190 children found that three quarters of those surveyed believe digital technology could cause eye strain, but a much lower percentage believe myopia is an actual health risk.

It found that screen time is a huge feature of children’s lives. Parents recorded their children as spending twice as much time on digital devices on weekend days compared to weekdays. 

It also found children spent a daily total of 255 minutes on average participating in “proximal tasks” at home and in school — 41% more time relative to that spent outdoors.

The study, led by researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology, involved the parents of children in eight schools completing a questionnaire and maintaining a diary of their children’s daily activities.

According to the results, of 329 parents, just 46% consider that myopia presents a health risk to their children, while 46% regard it as an optical inconvenience and 31% consider it an expense.

Some 4% see it as a sign of intelligence and 76% of parents recognise the potential of digital technology to impact the eye, particularly as a cause of eyestrain and need for spectacles. 

Only 14% of parents express concern should their child be diagnosed with myopia.

Despite the finding that most parents did not consider myopia as a health risk, a large majority of parents (76%) did recognise the potential of digital technology to impact the eye, particularly as a cause of eyestrain and need for spectacles.

“Most parents (78%) indicated that they sought to limit time using screens. Yet only 18 of 329 parents recognised any long-term risk from increased use of technology,” states the report. 

"Parents considered genetic predisposition and the use of technology as the two main causal factors for myopia.

“Even though the majority of parents in our study reported that they limited their child’s screen time, children spent over 14 hours per week on average at a screen. 

"Given that the study was conducted at a time of year with plenty of opportunity for quality time to be spent outdoors, this suggests that strict limits were not enforced.”

Myopic parents and parents who consider myopia to be a health risk did try to limit screen time use in their household but the study concludes that parental attitudes to myopia are “typically nonchalant in relation to health risk”.

Read the study here.

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