Worried about your child’s eyesight? Encourage them to play outdoors

New Delhi: Gone are the days when children could be seen playing around on the streets of the neighbourhood. Now, it’s all about the latest gadgets and technological fads.

Children as young as 3 years-old can be seen playing games or watching videos on a smartphone or a tablet and spending endless hours on gaming consoles and computers.

While numerous studies have shown the ill effects gadget-use can have on children, many parents are still oblivious.

Many doctors have come forward saying that parents often come to them with their children complaining mainly of problems with their eyesight, which is bound to happen due to excessive gadget-use.

Now, experts have suggested that spending just two hours a day outdoors, playing any sport in the sunlight, might help children maintain good eyesight.

Myopia – also known as nearsightedness and shortsightedness – is a condition of the eye where the light that enters the eye does not directly focus on the retina, but in front of it.

This causes the image that one sees – when looking at a distant object – to be out of focus. It does not affect focus when looking at a close object.

According to experts, lack of natural light is the prime reason for the condition.

“The main factor seems to be a lack of exposure to direct sunlight, because children who study a lot and who use computers or smartphones or tablet computers a lot have less opportunity to run around outside and are less exposed to sunshine,” Annegret Dahlmann-Noor, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, was quoted as saying to BBC Health.

While stopping or limiting screen time use may be a big task for parents, the best thing to do, say the experts, is to get children playing outside as much as possible.

“We know that myopia or short-sightedness is becoming more common,” Chris Hammond, a professor at King’s College London, was quoted as saying to BBC Health.

“Protective of myopia development is time outdoors – sport and leisure outdoors are protective of eyesight,” Hammond said.

“Probably on average across the week and the weekend, two hours a day outdoors is protective of becoming short-sighted in children,” he noted.

Further, a diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, and vitamins A, C and E and nutrients are good for the back of the eye.

Regular annual eye checks can also help, experts suggested.