Sight sleight is a growing issue

As our daily routines become increasingly dominated by screens, concerns about the impact on our eyesight, particularly among children, are growing. Optometrists worldwide are witnessing a surge in myopia (short-sightedness), with projections indicating that half the global population could be near-sighted by 2050.
Professor Isabelle Jalbert from the School of Optometry and Vision Science at UNSW Medicine & Health, notes that while genetics play a role in myopia, the rapid increase in its prevalence suggests environmental factors, such as excessive screen time, may contribute significantly.
Myopia, characterised by the eyeball growing too long, can lead to irreversible blurred distance vision. Despite treatments like orthokeratology, which temporarily reshape the eyeball, myopia remains a concern due to its association with severe eye conditions like glaucoma, retinal detachment, cataract, and myopic macular degeneration—conditions that may lead to blindness.
Even in the short term, screens can cause eye strain and symptoms of dry eyes. Professor Jalbert’s recent study found that phone screen use reduces blinking rates in children, potentially leading to dry eye symptoms.
To mitigate the impact of screens on eyes, Professor Jalbert recommends adhering to World Health Organisation guidelines, limiting daily screen time for school-age children to less than two hours. Encouraging outdoor activities, especially for children, can also reduce the risk of myopia. However, once myopia sets in, outdoor time may not slow its progression. For adults working on screens, ergonomic practices, including proper workstation setup, adequate lighting, and regular breaks, can help reduce eye strain. Following the 20-20-20 rule—looking at a distance for 20 seconds every 20 minutes—is advised.
Despite the challenges, Professor Jalbert acknowledges the practicality of using screens in today’s world. However, she emphasises the importance of being mindful of screen impact on eye health and managing risks through regular eye check-ups, recommended every two years and more frequently for vulnerable populations.