It's no surprise that smartphones are having negative effects on our children's eyes. But, just how bad is the damage? Well, thanks to a new study out of South Korea, we now have a clearer understanding on how extended cell phone usage affects the eyes of pre-teens.
Researchers took a look at 916 children from both urban and rural areas between the ages of 7-12. Each child went through an intensive screening process with a trained ophthalmologist. Approximately 6.6 percent of the children were diagnosed with intense dry eye symptoms.
97 percent of the children with dry eye said they used their smartphones at least three hours every single day. Most of the children with dry eye were from urban settings. On the other hand, 55 percent of the children without dry eye said they only used their smartphones around 35 minutes each day.
Researchers then asked children how often they got out into nature everyday. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the children with dry eye only got around 1.5 hours of outdoor time each day. Children without dry eye said they were outside at least 2.3 hours a day.
The main reason researchers believe prolonged smartphone use leads to dry eye symptoms has to do with reduced blink rates. It's now well known that people who read an article online will blink far less than someone reading the same article in print form. Frequent blinking is necessary for keeping the eyes well lubricated.
Not only are we blinking less when viewing a computer screen, the blinks we do take are far more often incomplete. An incomplete blink occurs when the upper eyelid doesn't make full contact with the lower lid. These incomplete blinks don't lubricate the eyes as well as natural blinks do.
This study should be a warning call for all parents in our technophilic age. The Korean doctors recommend every parent schedule regular eye screenings with eye care professionals for their children.
Recent statistics show around 65 percent of children in Korea use smartphones on a daily basis. However, a whopping 97 percent of American children under the age of four are now using cellphones daily.
Ida Chung, an O.D. who works for the American Osteopathic Association's (AOA) InfantSEE, told reporters dry eye cases are under-diagnosed in children nowadays. Dr. Chung believes it's vitally important for public health organizations to spread information on the risks of using smartphones for extended periods of time.
The best way to alleviate the symptoms of dry eye is to get outside for at least three hours each day. Believe it or not, children who gave up smartphones for a full week actually saw a dramatic improvement in their dry eye symptoms.
If you must use computers or smartphones for your job, it's helpful to remember the 20-20-20 rule. This rule is very simple: just look 20 feet away from your computer screen every 20 minutes for at least 20 seconds. The 20-20-20 rule has been proven to significantly reduce symptoms of eyestrain such as headaches, itchy eyes, and eye redness.