Muscat: Children as young as two are now being asked to wear spectacles, owing to the considerable time they are spending looking at smartphones and laptops.
Dr. Entisar Mohamed from the Royal Oman Hospital said, “These days, I’ve seen kids as young as four wearing glasses. I’ve even seen children that are two years old wearing them.”
“The light reflection, concentration and radiation from gadgets, exhausts their eyes,” she explained.
“Smartphones are seen from a near view. If you’re watching TV, you will at least be two to three metres away from the TV screen, but nowadays, the screen is only 20 or 30 centimetres from your eyes.”
“The use of electronics at a near distance increases the eye’s number and interferes with vision,” added Dr. Mansour Abu Khelewa, an ophthalmologist at the Burjeel Hospital in Al Khuwair. “45 per cent of all children, who come to me, come with this problem. It has increased by more than 35 per cent since I first came here.”
“A lot of parents, who come here, tell me their child uses these gadgets for more than six hours a day,” he continued. “Parents give them these gadgets due to a habit. They tell me ‘the child is asking for these electronics and I can’t control my child.’ The parents are to blame for giving them these gadgets.”
Dr. Khelewa, who has nearly 22 years of experience as an eye specialist, with eight of them in Oman, said the games that are featured in these gadgets cause problems with human behaviour.
“If you play games, it interferes with the blinking of the eyes, it reduces concentration of the brain and it causes headaches if you use the phone continuously for more than two hours,” he revealed. “Children like iPhones, they like to play these games because they are attractive, they insist on playing these games.”
“As a parent, I would only give my child time with the iPad at the end of the day,” continued Dr. Khelewa. “After studying time is over, I can give my child electronic gadgets for one or two hours.”
If they need it for a project or need it to study, I can increase this time for up to three hours. Sometimes, I will let them play games only on the weekend.”
“The concentration of light is more direct for your eyes, and this affects the child’s focus,” noted Dr. Mohamed. “We could prevent this and make them busy with exercises and toys that are without bright lights, it will decrease the effect on their vision and prevent them from wearing glasses.”
This view is backed up by optometrists at Oman’s leading opticians.
“These days, we get kids aged two and three years old coming in for glasses,” revealed one. “If your eyes are continuously focussed on the computer, it causes strain on your eye muscles and increases their power as well. There is a chance for the power to increase every six months.”
“The youngest I’ve seen was a four-year-old. He had quite a high number,” added another optometrist. “This month, our optical lenses and frames have been more in demand than our sunglasses. We sold about 144 lenses and 64 optical frames, and only about 134 sunglasses.”
“That is devastating, to be honest,” he continued, when asked about the high use of laptops and smartphones prevalent in today’s society. “The rays in these smartphones cause the maximum damage to your cornea and retina. When we go into a dark area, our cones start to activate because this helps us see in the dark, and these rays are very harmful to our cones.”
“I think parents should start pushing their children and themselves to have a better lifestyle,” he said. “When we were small, we used to go out; we didn’t have a lot of access to TVs or smartphones. You can teach your child how to play sports or how to play an instrument. There are lots of other things one can do.”
Users of glasses are quick to spot the relation between the wearing of corrective lenses and extended screen time at a young age.
“I got glasses around the age of six,” said a long-time wearer of spectacles, who is now 25. “My power is around six right now, but it was only about 2.5 when I first began wearing them. I used to watch about four hours of television a day.
“My sister though had about seven to eight hours of access to screens every day,” he added. “She used the TV, the laptop, the smartphone, everything.”
“My six-year-old daughter began wearing glasses about a year ago,” revealed an Omani mother. “She used to spend about three to four hours a day on the smartphone. There’s no fix for this, though. She will need laser eye surgery at a later stage.”