Thu, May 10, 2018 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTER ]

Protecting eyesight

A study published last week by National Taiwan University Hospital has identified a trend of severely worsening nearsightedness as students progress from elementary school through senior-high school. I can attest to this, having previously taught high-school students. In any class, more than half of students were nearsighted.

The last few years have seen an explosion in the use of smartphones, tablets, e-books and smart classrooms, which has indirectly caused problems of eye fatigue and screen addiction.

Several things can be done to combat this. For instance, many schools encourage students to take part in eye exercises, gazing into the distance and vision training and other activities, although they are not compulsory.

If these activities were to be included in the curriculum, including teaching students early on about the serious side-effects of modern technology, such as nearsightedness, cataracts and retinal diseases, this would help raise children’s awareness and hopefully encourage them to adopt preventive measures.

Furthermore, increasing efforts to encourage the reading of printed books, aside from giving struggling brick-and-mortar bookshops a helping hand, would also help save students’ eyesight.

Research also shows that reading printed books allows for more intensive reading, focuses concentration and the material is more easily stored in the long-term memory.

At a higher level, the government should consider implementing an annual “eye week,” during which schools put on a week of exercises and activities to promote eye health.

This would allow not just children and students, but also the wider public to understand the importance of maintaining good eye health and increase self-awareness, which should ultimately mean they are able to self-regulate their use of smart devices and take better care of their eyes.

Of course, the wider environment also needs to be changed. For instance, screens and mobile devices need to be equipped with more advanced brightness controls and a function that limits usage time.

Advertisements and marketing materials for such devices should come with a health warning, while parents and teachers must lead by example.

If a comprehensive set of measures is introduced, it would be possible to reverse the trend of children’s declining eyesight.

We must take action now.

Lin Yen-yu

Kaohsiung

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