With the beautiful weather approaching our area there is a natural shift from children playing inside to outside in our yards, parks, and playgrounds. With childhood obesity on the rise along with the ramifications of video games on the developing brain, playing outside is becoming increasingly important. Outside play can not only benefit your child’s overall health but also have an important impact on their visual systems.
Over these past 2 school years, our children have spent an astronomical amount of time in front of screens. This increase in screen time has led to a surge in binocular vision dysfunctions and nearsightedness. Our children’s binocular systems have taken a toll since virtual learning began leading to increased eyestrain, headaches, fatigue, double vision, and an increase in losing place while reading. In addition, increased screen time has been leading to an increase in nearsightedness. Even prior to the pandemic it was estimated that children between the ages of 8-18 spend 7 or more hours on digital devices daily, not including time for academic use. Research has also shown that 40% of US children over the age of 12 need some sort of vision correction to help them see clearly and that number is only expected to increase drastically post virtual learning and increased screen time.
New studies show that increasing time outside and playing in natural light can decrease your child’s chance of developing nearsightedness by 20-50%. It takes just 1 hour of outside time in the winter months and 3 hours of outside play in the summer to get the benefit of these effects.
Playing outside not only contributes to your child’s overall health and vision but it can also further cognitive, social, and emotional development. Outdoor play can help to build solid attention spans by letting kids explore curiously and self-direct play and should be encouraged all year round.
If you have any questions or concerns regarding your child’s risk for nearsightedness and their binocular visual systems, please call and schedule an appointment with one of our developmental optometrists today.