Why screens really ARE bad for your child’s long term eye health

If your child is short-sighted, this is an important article for you. Did you know that ‘short-sight’ is a casual term for the eye disease ‘myopia’? If your child is short-sighted and has a minus in their prescription e.g. -1.75D – they have myopia.

Myopia is directly linked to eye diseases later in life like detached retinas, myopic macular degeneration and glaucoma. The more myopia they have, the greater their risks. Every Dioptre counts. Myopia can be controlled early. Yes, the deterioration of their sight can be reduced. Which also means they can see better and have better lives.

What is a ‘myopic’ eye?
(a simple explanation)

myopiachat - myopic myopia eye vs normal eye

Their eye is too long, so light doesn’t focus perfectly on the retina (the bit at the back which takes the image to the brain), giving them blurred vision. The minus sign on their prescription shows you how much myopia. Ask your optician to explain this if you don’t understand. The longer the eye them more stretched the retina can be causing the later life diseases.

Why are screens (and a lack of outdoor time) bad for myopic eyes?

The best way to describe is to compare it to tooth decay.

QUESTION: Why do you try to limit the sweets your children eat and make sure they brush their teeth twice a day?

night lenses - tooth decay

Because you are worried their teeth will rot and fall out right? No teeth when they’re older.

Think of their eyes in the same way.


For myopic eyes too much screen time is bad  – really bad for them – like sweets are bad for your teeth. Less outdoor time and screens silently damage your eye. We’re not saying ‘don’t use screens’. Just like sweets, have them in moderation.

You wouldn’t let them guzzle sweets for an hour before bed and go to sleep without brushing their teeth? But you might let them stare at a screen close up in a dark room for an hour before bed. In our analogy, this is the same thing. Both are enjoyable to do as a child (!) but both are bad long term for their dental / eye health.

More time outdoors is good for their eyes, like brushing your teeth. Why? Because their type of eye doesn’t like focusing on near things, on digital images or straining. Looking long distances (sky, horizon) can actually HELP their eye, stop it getting worse.

DEMONSTRATION (maybe do this with your child?)

How BAD are screens for your myopic eyes?

Stare at this image below for 10 seconds and see how it feels. It’s not comfortable right?

mobile screen under microscope

The image is a freeze frame of a mobile screen under a microscope. It’s what their eye is actually processing. Their eye captures all that digital fuzz and sends it to their brain to form what they see. Their eye has to work hard to do that, which isn’t good for myopic eyes.

Some parenting tips.
Aim at getting your child just 90 minutes or more a day outdoor time.
Car journeys are an easy way to get some of this time. Don’t allow screen use in the car. Music, podcasts, radio, but no screens.
30/30/30, 30cm for 30 minutes then a 30 minute break. Difficult to watch a film with this one, but good for tablet and phone use.
Good old TVs! Try and encourage watching as much on TV screens that are further away than the 30cm.

How GOOD is outdoor time for their myopic eyes?

If you stare at the trees in the distance on the image below for 10 seconds. How does it compare to the other image…more comfortable? Looking in the distance outdoors relaxes the eye muscles and provides lots of natural light.

Before myopia begins outdoor time is the most effective way at preventing myopia.

Get them to walk the dog, walk to school, play field sports, go to the park to hang out … you get the idea. All good for their eyes.

This (below) is really really not good for their eyes:
myopiachat - teen screen stare

How much outdoor time will help their eyes?

It’s recognised that 2 minutes brushing your teeth twice per day is good for your teeth right? 4 mins x 7 days = 28 minutes per week.

For your eyes it’s slightly more, but then they’ll do a load of this anyway at school, on the way to school etc. Studies have shown that 14 hours per week (2 hrs/day) spent outdoors reduces the risk of developing short sight. Basically, it’s good for your child’s myopic eyes. But we recognise that this is easier to say than do. It requires effort. If they brush their teeth (hopefully) twice per day, see if they can make the same conscious effort with their eyes because, like their teeth, they’ll need them when they’re older!

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