How the Pandemic Is Contributing to More Nearsightedness in Children

Excess screen time isn't the culprit, doctors say

Courtesy of Dr. Vike Vicente

All of the time spent at home during the pandemic could be affecting children's eyesight, doctors and researchers say.

Like so many kids, Leo Cespedes, of Woodbridge, Virginia, spent many days staring at screens this past year.

"Every single time that I finished class, my eyes hurted because I’ve been looking at the computer too much," Leo said.

Leo's mom Natali Cespedes said she has often reached out to her son's eye doctor was concerned if his screen time would worsen Leo’s vision.

"I was always asking, calling, to make sure that it was okay because I was worried," Natali Cespedes said.

When it comes to eye health, the pandemic has been a problem for some kids.

One study published by the British Journal of Ophthalmology looked at a group of about 1,800 students in Hong Kong and found the rate of nearsightedness more than doubled in the past year and a half.

But eye doctors say phones and laptops are actually not to blame for the issue.

"Screens are not bad for your eyes. They will not harm the eyeball," pediatric ophthalmologist Dr. Vike Vicente told News4.

Vicente, with Eye Doctors of Washington, says the problem is too much time indoors.

"Spending time outside helps prevent nearsightedness to a small degree. Not a huge one, but it does have an effect. So we encourage kids to always spend time outside," he said.

Vicente said eye doctors aren’t exactly sure why outdoor light is helpful. Some believe it’s the UV light that protects eyeballs while others think it’s helpful to look off in the distance.

Either way, doctors agree it’s good to take breaks from being indoors and online.

"We don’t expect a large increase in nearsightedness, but we expect to see some," Vicente said.

As for the Cespedes family, they say Leo’s looking forward to the fall and a break from online learning.

"I’m so glad they’re going back to school this year. No more screen time," Natali Cespedes said.

Contact Us