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Healio: Increased digital screen time during COVID-19 may accelerate myopia epidemic

By Michela Cimberle

When the COVID-19 pandemic spread and governments worldwide enforced school closure as part of their containment strategy, digital technology and virtual learning played a vital role in ensuring some degree of class continuity.

As schools reopen, e-learning approaches will remain an important backup strategy for blended learning and in the event of new closures. Digital innovation is expected to have many positive outcomes in the future of education. However, there is concern among ophthalmologists that increased screen time, together with a significant reduction of the time spent outdoors, might further accelerate the myopia epidemic.

Reopening has taken place at different times and with various modalities of organization and timetabling, often alternating in-person instruction with blended online and independent learning. In response to the inevitable new local outbreaks or isolated clusters of positive cases, a fragmented school year is expected, in which partial or temporary closures may disrupt the normal classroom routine, reintroducing remote learning.

“In the school attended by my 16-year-old, there were too many cases, and so they closed the school and sent the students home with their iPad again for 2 weeks. My other two kids are still attending school regularly,” Erin D. Stahl, MD, an OSN Pediatrics/Strabismus Board Member, said.

Something she noticed is that her children have gotten into the habit of spending a lot more time playing video games on their phones.

“During lockdown, we tried to be great parents by organizing activities for them in and outside the house, and they do spend time outdoors, but when they come back home now, they end up on a screen. Therefore, I see it firsthand also as a parent that near screen time has increased significantly,” she said.



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