Screen time over the last 18 months has indeed skyrocketed, especially for children, resulting in a concerning uptick in myopia, digital eye strain and screen addiction. Childhood myopia is increasing at a rapid rate, with 1 in 3 children now affected, and the recent shift in lifestyle as a result of COVID-19 has worsened the issue.

A recent survey conducted by Global Myopia Awareness Coalition (GMAC) found that only 25 percent of parents have taken their child/children to visit the eye doctor since the pandemic began, despite an increase in screen time and change in lifestyle habits. Myopia, or nearsightedness, affects the ability to clearly see objects that are farther away, and it will continue to worsen and impact children’s ability to do their best if not treated early.

Here are some fast facts about myopia and some topline results from the GMAC survey:

• Since the pandemic most children haven’t complained about health issues but close to 2 in 10 complained about fatigue and increased headaches.

• Myopia is now treatable—so parents don’t have to watch it get worse—and can schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an eye doctor to ask about new treatment options that can slow the progression of the disease.

• 50 percent of parents report that their children spent more than 4 hours using electronic devices during the pandemic, compared to 18 percent of parents reporting the same behavior prior to the pandemic.

“Many researchers believe too much time spent on video screens and digital devices, combined with other near work, not enough time outside, and genetics are risk factors for myopia,” said Millicent Knight, OD, SVP, Customer Development Group at Essilor of America.

“Encouraging parents to make annual comprehensive eye exams is just as much of a priority as routine pediatrician appointments and will help diagnose myopia early on and prevent it from getting worse over time. In addition, it is critical that optometrists and ophthalmologists start the conversation with parents early about myopia,” Knight observed.