Today’s youth may seem privileged what with their easy access to dazzling touch screens and other interactive gadgets, but recent reports say that technology is taking a troubling toll, especially on China’s youngsters.
Last month, an article on The Economist noted that nearly 80 percent of 16- to 18-year olds are short-sighted, compared to the mere third of that demographic who struggled with the affliction in 1970. The article added that the trend is even more alarming among primary school students: from 20 percent in 2000 to 40 percent today, more than quadruple the rate of such children in Germany and the U.S.
The story went on to site a study of 15,000 Beijing children, which concluded that "poor sight was significantly associated with more time spent studying, reading or using electronic devices, along with less time spent outdoors.” The piece said that myopia— the extreme instance of this condition that blurs anything outside of one’s 16cms of immediate vision— has become a new norm across Asia, affecting “… 80-90 percent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.”
A post on healthxchange.com suggested key preventive steps like taking five minute breaks for every half hour of studying or work, use of good lighting and a routine of daily outdoor activities. It also said that parents who are concerned about their children’s vision should take note of “… frequent rubbing of the eyes, excessive blinking… squinting… and headaches from eye strain.” The International Myopia Prevention Association touted those and other preventative steps, like regularly testing children’s vision by having them “…read a distant road sign or a newspaper held up at a distance.” It said that any ensuing difficulties should immediately lead to an optometrist appointment, adding: ”Don’t delay – otherwise there will be an irreversible overelongation of the eye.”
Myopiaprevention.org says such proactive measures are crucial because the affliction has "no cure. It added that those already affected shouldn’t fear, because treatments like reading glasses are readily available. The aforementioned Economist story highlighted the broader social trends of Beijing’s rising myopia cases, describing our city’s famed glasses market as "a four-story mall crammed only with spectacle shops.” Hopefully that, and the vast range of cutesy frames available in stores and online, aren’t signs of complacency when it comes to our children’s eye care.
If you have concerns about your child’s vision, be sure to check beijingkids’ guide to optometrists.
Photos: Nicolas Alejandro Street Photogrpahy, Jenny Downing (flickr)