Does the increased use of digital devices during COVID-19 lockdown impact the development of myopia in children?

Bottom Line:

This study found that the COVID-19 pandemic could potentially inflate the association between factors including increased digital screen time, near work, and limited outdoor activities, and the development of myopia.

Reference:

Wong, C.W. et al. Digital Screen Time During COVID-19 Pandemic: Risk for a Further Myopia Boom? Am J Ophthalmol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajo.2020.07.034

Date Published:

29 July 2020

Synopsis:

Given school closures, in-house quarantine, and the increase in reliance on online learning, digital screen time has been increased for children during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is estimated that long-term quarantine can result in less time spent outdoors and more recreational time spent using digital devices. Thus, prolonged lockdown due to COVID-19 may be associated with an increase in the risk for myopia due to the growing time dedicated to digital device usage. A large cohort study found that near work which includes computer use, reading time, and reading distance increased the odds of myopia in 9-year-old children. Furthermore, a meta-analysis that included children aged 6 to 18 years found that a reduction in reading time reduced the risk of myopia. However, this effect was only observed for reading and not for watching television, playing computer games, or studying. Another meta-analysis reported a reduction in the incidence of myopia with increased daily outdoor time in children. Thus, it is crucial that appropriate measures are taken during the COVID-19 pandemic to mitigate the effect of increased technology usage on the progression of myopia in children. Parents must understand the long-term effects of increased screen time on the incidence of myopia and teach their children healthy eye habits. Moreover, the government should encourage school systems to incorporate more breaks and physical or household activities into their at-home school curriculum.

Summary by: Eugenia Yeung