By Zeynep Rakipoglu
ISTANBUL (AA) - A professor specializing in eye diseases said Tuesday that the rate of myopia in children has escalated with the increased use of digital screens due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Arif Koytak, an academic member at Bezmialem Foundation University’s Department of Eye Diseases, said in a statement that children especially spent 2020 at home or indoors. This held back the age group that is at risk of developing myopia from activities such as games and sports that are played outside in daylight.
He noted that children spend almost all day in front of a computer, tablet or smartphone screens for online education due to COVID-19 precautions as well as for entertainment.
“It was not difficult to expect that the restrictions would have a negative impact on the development and the rate of deterioration of myopia in children,” Koytak said.
He noted that the first scientific research to prove his case was carried out in China.
“The research that has been conducted based on the blinking defects of nearly 125,000 children in the last five years proved that precautions such as strict lockdowns and online education remarkably increased the development of myopia in children six to eight years old in the first half of 2020 in China. The research showed that the rate of myopia increased three times in children at the age of six, twice at seven, and 1.4 times at eight compared to previous years,” he said.
Koytak underlined that as the six-month-long quarantine period yielded such drastic results, it is important to pay attention to the precautions such as the lockdowns and online education in Western countries where the quarantines lasted longer and can be expected to continue.
“We know that genetics is not the only factor,” he said, adding children and young adults spend less time outdoors and exercise less as a result of the technological and social changes over the last 25-30 years.
Koytak indicated that researchers studying the rapid increase in myopia in society pointed out that it may result from the notable increase in the duration of things children and young adults do while focusing at close range.
He added that it was learned that activities done in the open air or outside have a preventive impact from the development of myopia.
*Writing by Dilan Pamuk in Ankara