April 14th, 2021

// Recent Survey Cites Poor Behaviour and Reduced Attention Span as Top Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain in Alberta Children

Recent Survey Cites Poor Behaviour and Reduced Attention Span as Top Symptoms of Digital Eye Strain in Alberta Children

Survey Commissioned by the Alberta Association of Optometrists Finds Increased Screen Time Fueling Alberta Parents' Concerns Around Children's Eye Health

EDMONTON, AB, April 13, 2021 /CNW/ -A recent survey commissioned by the Alberta Association of Optometrists (AAO) reveals 75 per cent of Alberta parents are concerned about increased screen time and its impact on their children's eye health. This comes more than one-year into the COVID-19 pandemic, with the majority of parents claiming their children's time spent on digital devices has increased in the last year. The survey found approximately 40 to 50 per cent of a child's waking hours are spent on digital devices – this number increases to more than 60 per cent in teenagers.1

75 per cent of Alberta parents are concerned about increased screen time and its impact on their children's eye health.

The AAO is urging Alberta parents to be on the lookout for signs of digital eye strain, which can cause discomfort and serious eye and vision-related problems like myopia, also known as nearsightedness. According to the survey, one-in-four Albertans say their child has experienced more symptoms of eye strain this year than in other years. At 33 per cent, poor behaviour is the top cited symptom, followed by reduced attention span; tired eyes; eye strain; shoulder, back or neck pain; and headaches. 

"While it's alarming how many hours children are spending on digital devices, it doesn't really come as a surprise," said Dr. Richard Cowles, President of the AAO. "With families staying closer to home and more kids doing school virtually, spending time on digital devices has become an extension of our current reality. Excessive screen time can significantly impact our vision and eye health, especially among children – unfortunately, many common symptoms are not outwardly visible or are ignored by children, who simply don't know any better."

As the amount of time children are spending on screens increases at home and school, so does the risk of myopia. Twelve per cent of Alberta parents say they have a child who was diagnosed with myopia in the last year. Young children who develop myopia are more likely to experience worsening nearsightedness with age, which can lead to a higher risk of severe conditions like glaucoma, cataract and retinal detachment later in life. To protect children's eyes during these important developmental years, parents are encouraged to balance screen time with more outdoor time. 

"Recent studies estimate that by 2050 half of the world's population will be myopic2," said Dr. Cowles. "This rise can be attributed to environmental factors and changes in our lifestyle like spending more times on screens and less time outdoors. From the survey, we know that nearly half of Alberta parents are unfamiliar with how to spot signs of myopia in their children. This is why it's so important to visit your optometrist annually – we're here to help you protect your child's vision and eye health."

Based on the assumption children sleep between 8-11 hours per day and teenagers sleep 8 hours per day
Holden BA, Fricke TR, Wilson DA et al. Global prevalence of myopia and high myopia and temporal trends from 2000 through 2050. Ophthalmology 2016; 123: 1036-1042

To reduce the impact of screen time, parents can implement easy, everyday actions, including limiting handheld devices, planning for outside play time, putting away electronics one to two hours before bedtime, and ensuring children hold reading material away from their face. Most importantly, parents should implement eye health breaks or even set routine 'unplug' days following screen-heavy time periods to give their children's eyes a rest. 

The Alberta Association of Optometrists recommends children receive an eye exam annually, and there is Alberta Health coverage towards these eye exams until age 19. Optometrists are available to discuss concerns around children's vision and eye health. To find an optometrist and book an eye exam, please visit www.optometrists.ab.ca/findanoptometrist.

Survey details
This survey was conducted by Angus Reid on behalf of the Alberta Association of Optometrists between February 26 and March 2, 2021, among a sample of 551 Albertans with children aged 18 and under. The interviews were conducted online in English, and respondents were sourced using the Angus Reid Forum online panel. 

About the Alberta Association of Optometrists:

The Alberta Association of Optometrists represents more than 800 optometrists across the province. The Association works to promote excellence in the practice of optometry, to enhance public recognition of optometry as the primary vision care provider in Alberta, and to advance the interests of the profession. For more information or to find an optometrist, visit www.optometrists.ab.ca.

SOURCE Alberta Association of Optometrists


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