Children’s eyesight at risk from devices, doctor says

By Lin Hui-chin and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Tue, Aug 13, 2019 - Page 1

Very young children run the risk of developing severe myopia if they spend too much time using tablet computers or other electronic devices, a Taichung ophthalmologist said on Sunday.

A two-year-old girl whose mother said was “practically glued to the screen” of her tablet computer was tested for myopia and had a reading of -0.600 diopters, said Liang Chung-ling (梁中玲), deputy director of China Medical University’s Center for Myopia and Eye Disease.

Even when treated and having her eyeglasses adjusted for pseudomyopia, the girl still had a myopia reading of -0.450 diopters, Liang said, adding that at this rate, it could exceed -1 diopters when she reaches adulthood.

Five or six years ago, encountering one case of myopia of -0.500 to 0.600 in a two or three-year-old child per month would be “terrifying,” but now, she sees similar cases nearly every week, Liang said.

Parents are typically unaware that children can develop nearsightedness at such a young age, she said, adding that children should receive regular eye exams from the age of three.

Many parents use electronic devices to pacify young children, she said, adding that on public transportation it seems like “every child is holding a device.”

Even on holiday, when parents have time to bond with their kids, some end up playing digital games together, she said.

A 2017 survey by the Health Promotion Administration found that among 7,348 children and adolescents aged three to 18, 6.9 percent of children in their first year of preschool (about three to four years old) were nearsighted.

Moreover, 7.4 percent of children in their second year of preschool (about four to five years old) and 9 percent of children in their third year of preschool (about five to six years old) were nearsighted, up from 4.6 percent and 7.1 percent in 2010 respectively, the survey found.