How long should I or my child spend in front of the screen? This is a question that parents often ask when they see me at Orthovision. At the same time, I have also noticed that some parents or children who are coming to us are not aware that prolonged usage of screens might have a negative effect on the visual and social development of the child.
Recently, I was attending the CLADE Conference (CLADE = Latin American Council of Strabismus) in Buenos Aires. It was a three-day conference with many very interesting talks. I was invited to give two talks there, one of them was in the session 'Mobiles and Tablets, a Threat to Binocularity'.
It was so good to hear how the awareness of the dangers of too much screen time was high in South America. One colleague from Colombia presented her papers on clinical evidence of the effects of prolonged exposure to computer screens on accommodation and vergence. That was an amazing study, comparing the status of visual functions between a control group, prolonged users and moderate users of screens. The results were remarkable. It would be difficult to carry out a similar study here in Singapore as we would not be able to get a control group.
My talk was about the 'Effect of screens on visual and cognitive functions and overall states of well-being'. It was very interesting to see that many participants, from different parts of the world, did not have any idea about those (negative) effects. However, the conclusion was: “It all makes so much of sense. Why haven't we thought of that earlier?”.
Consensus needs to be reached amongst the professionals in the field of eye care about how much screen-time is advisable - this in turn will lead to creating awareness about 'screen-usage' within the society. The majority of our patients do follow the advised time-frame for the usage of screens and I do not see any reason why the majority of the population would not follow the same guidelines if they knew what the adverse effects of too much screen time are.
A study done by Tata Communications (published in the Straits Times in 2014) reveals that Singaporeans spend more time on the internet then in any other country, except India. According to the study, 43% of Singaporeans spend more then six hours a day on the web, and could manage only 7.3 hours without their internet fix. Surely these numbers would be even worse now.
One needs to be aware of the effects of the screens on overall well-being. Recently we could learn from a Chanel News Asia documentary about the connection between the screens and addictions but the public is still not aware of what screens do to their eyes and vision or rather how it alters our way of seeing. The effect goes on further; affecting cognitive functions, brain chemistry, self-esteem and overall one’s state of well-being.
We will talk more about the connection between vision and way of seeing, cognitive functions and self-esteem in the future blogs.
We at Orthovision recommend adjustment in the life style, particularly the screen time, which is often a precondition to start with the Integrated Vision therapy.