BIRMINGHAM, England — So many people, especially young people and teenagers, spend a significant period of time each day staring at a screen of some kind, whether that be a computer, smartphone, tablet, or the regular old TV. Now, a new study is warning parents that all that screen time may be behind a stunning rise in children who need prescription glasses.
According to the report released by United Kingdom-based eye care company Scrivens Opticians, the percentage of 13-16 year olds in the U.K. who need glasses has nearly doubled over the past seven years — from 20% in 2012 to 35% in 2018. Two-thirds of those teens were diagnosed as being myopic, or short-sighted.
Researchers theorize that this significant increase in eye problems among young people is likely linked to excessive time spent staring at screens, which can lead to eye strain, shortsightedness, and blurred vision. In fact, the study also found that the average 13-16 year old spends around 26 hours per week staring at a smartphone, playing video games, or watching TV.
Overall, optometrists from Scrivens say that much more research is needed to determine what all this screen time is really doing to teens’ eyes, especially in the long-term.
“Children’s eyes continue to grow until early adulthood, and their vision is changing too,” comments Sheena Mangat, an optometrist with Scrivens, in a statement. “Because conditions such as short or long sightedness can happen gradually over time, neither children nor parents can ‘see the signs’, which is why regular eye checks are so important.”
Additionally, the study found that it is no easy task for parents to pry their kids away from their screens; 73% of surveyed parents said it is a “challenge” to get their children to stop staring at some type of screen for a few hours.