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22nd Jan 2016

Children Twice As Likely To Be Shortsighted Today Compared To 50 Years Ago

Trine Jensen-Burke

According to experts, our children’s addiction to iPads and screen time spells bad news for their health.

Hours spent in front of a game console or TV screen means that there are fewer hours left in the day to play outside, and this is, according to British researchers, has resulted in worrying statistics when it comes to young children and teenager’s eyesight.

Recently, scientists at Ulster University tracked more than 1,000 children over six years, and compared it to results from similar studies in the 1960s. The study showed that nearly a fifth of teenagers in the UK today need glasses for short sight – more than double the rate in the 1960s. In fact, according to the researchers, the number of children with myopia – the medical term for short sight – has rocketed in the last five decades.

The main problem according to the experts? A lack of exposure to natural daylight and sunshine on a daily basis.

It’s a sad fact, but nonetheless true; today’s children are more likely to be found staring into a computer screen than kicking a ball around the park with their friends.

This is what Ulster University’s Professor Kathryn Saunders, lead author of the study, had to say:

“Other studies have shown that the increase in myopia is far too rapid to be down to simple genetic factors, and so we know there must be something else adding to the risk,” Saunders explained to MailOnline recently. “People have been looking at environmental factors and at the moment they are focused on how much time children are spending outdoors.”

According to the professor, eyesight is effect by levels or vitamin D and hormones – and being in outdoor light changes the level of these in our body.

“There is some evidence in place that just an hour extra spent outdoors every day can protect children from developing myopia,” Saunders explains, adding that myopia is also becoming a major problem in the Far East, where children are also spending a vast amount of time inside, in front of a screen.

So much of a problem is this, that the Chinese authorities are even testing transparent classrooms in a bid to increase children’s exposure to natural light.

Now, who’s planning on taking their kids to the park this weekend?!