HCF warns against the risk of 'eyestrain' in children

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HCF is urging parents to watch out for signs of eyestrain in their children during home-schooling lessons with new data revealing a five-year 21 per cent increase in school-aged children claiming for glasses or contact lenses.

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in reliance on technology for education, work, and leisure, with children spending more time inside.

HCF said its claims data has also revealed a five year 28.8 per cent increase in claims for high-school-aged students requiring glasses or contact lenses and a 9.53 per cent increase in primary school-aged students in 2020 compared to 2015.

HCF senior optometrist Whitney Lam said more young patients are being diagnosed with myopia, or short-sightedness, and that screen time was a contributing culprit.

“Myopia is one of the most prevalent problems HCF Optometrists are managing with younger patients,” said Ms Lam.

“Our Members are telling us they’re increasingly concerned about their kids spending more time on screens, especially during lockdown, and they’re right to be concerned: global studies are now telling us that increased screen time is associated with increased rates of myopia.

“Even though there is no cure for myopia, the earlier you catch it, the earlier you can prevent it from progressing. A big worry for children is the eye health risks later in life, including permanent blindness, but fortunately, 90 per cent of vision loss can be prevented or treated with early diagnosis.

“Technology is helping so many families get through lockdown. While we can’t escape screens, we do want to help families with the right tips, tools and strategies to firstly identify signs of myopia, and then to slow its rate of progression.”

Ms Lam said parents can help look after their children’s eyesight through a range of steps, including looking for symptoms, ensure a break from screens every 20 minutes, keep all devices and reading materials at least an arm’s length away, make sure of good lighting and spend time outdoors, where possible during lockdowns.