Protecting eye health during circuit breaker
More people buying glasses with blue light protection as screen time grows
Singapore is number one in the world for the prevalence of childhood myopia for those aged seven to nine, on top of having one of the highest rates of myopia globally.
And those statistics could worsen because of the Covid-19 outbreak.
Preliminary findings by Plano, the local health tech company behind the science-based eye-health app, showed an increase in screen time of almost 20 per cent for both children and adults during this period.
Associate Professor Mohamed Dirani, Plano's founding managing director, told The New Paper: "This is particularly worrying given that literature has found that even two-year-olds are already spending at least two hours in front of screens, with screen time increasing to more than seven hours in teenagers.
"Sleep duration has also decreased during this period, with children sleeping almost four hours less each week."
With more families working from home and children going on online classes, they end up looking at their screens more.
Dr Dirani said: "Screen-based activities constitute a new form of near-work, and children who use devices tend to do so indoors for long uninterrupted periods with poor posture and at viewing distances closer than conventional books.
"Furthermore, as screen time increases, children are spending less time on outdoor activities.
" This is worrying as outdoor activity has been shown to have a protective effect on myopia development and progression, with research finding that two hours of outdoor activity each day reduces the risk and progression of myopia by 10 per cent to 20 per cent.
"As such, children who are excessively using their smart devices are at higher risk of developing myopia, which, in some cases, may lead to high myopia, a severe case of myopia that can also lead to blinding eye conditions like glaucoma and retinal detachment."
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With everyone advised to stay home during the circuit breaker, parents should take this opportunity to manage their child's screen time, myopia and Internet safety.
FREE TILL JUNE 1
Plano is offering the premium version of its mobile app - which includes a time management function in line with World Health Organisation guidelines, digital eye health and progress reports, app blocking and remote locking functions - to all Singaporean families for free from now to June 1.
Plano has also brought in almost 10 per cent of optometrists in Singapore onto its Plano Eyecheck platform, which connects users to their nearest optometrist and allows them to locate, book and manage appointments.
When contacted by TNP, optical shops such as the Owndays Singapore chain, Visio Optical, Foptics and I-Vision - which are allowed to operate by appointment only during the circuit breaker - said more customers have been buying products that protect them from blue light, which is emitted from screens of smart devices and can be harmful with prolonged exposure.
A spokesman for Foptics said: "Many have (also) bought PC glasses for their children who don't need glasses but are engaged in home-based learning."
Mr Donovan Chua, an optometrist at I-Vision, said: "This month, we've had 10 customers with children whose myopia has grown by 75 to 100 degrees."
Visio Optical has also seen more customers in their late 30s to early 40s. Its spokesman said: "This age group is experiencing presbyopia-related (long-sightedness) problems.
"Now that they have to spend more time on their computers, they will need to use lenses that help them see near objects, such as progressive lenses."