July 1, 2020
By Dwight Akerman, OD, MBA, FAAO, FBCLA
Chief Medical Editor, Review of Myopia Management
Children and teenagers spend more time now than ever using their smartphones, and it may be affecting their vision. A recent study conducted in Ireland reports that school-aged children with myopia appear to use about twice as much data as compared to non‐myopes, which may indicate a link between myopia and smartphone data usage.
The investigation examined the results of questionnaires filled out by secondary and tertiary level students (n=418) about their patterns of smartphone usage and their attitudes about potential myopia risk.
The researchers considered data usage over an extended period as the primary and objective indicator of phone use, and self-reported estimates quantified average daily time spent using a smartphone. An optometrist verified each participant’s refractive status.
Among the 418 students in the study, 99 percent owned smartphones. Average daily smartphone data and time usage was 800.37±1,299.88MB and 265.16±168.02 minutes, respectively.
Myopic students used almost double the amount of smartphone data, at 1,130.71±1,748.14MB per day compared with non-myopes, who used an average of 613.63±902.15MB daily. However, smartphone time usage was not significantly different (12 percent higher in the myopes). The study also found myopic refractive error was significantly associated with increasing daily smartphone data usage, as well as increasing age and number of myopic parents.
This study demonstrates an association between myopia and smartphone data usage. Children and teenagers now spend more time participating in near tasks because of smartphone usage, which poses an additional risk factor for myopia development and progression.
What does this mean for your clinical practice? Eye care professionals should counsel students to hold their smartphones at least 30 cm (12 inches) away from their eyes and every 20 minutes gaze at least 20 feet way for at least 20 seconds (20-20-20 Rule). Students should also spend a minimum of 120 minutes of intermittent outdoor light exposure per day, including recess time, physical education time, and additional outdoor time after school. Outdoor light exposure reduces both the incidence and the progression of myopia.
Smartphone use as a possible risk factor for myopia
McCrann S, Loughman J, Butler JS, Paudel N, Flitcroft DI
Clinical Relevance: This study demonstrates an association between myopia and smartphone data usage. Youths now spend more time participating in near tasks as a result of smartphone usage. This poses an additional risk factor for myopia development/progression and is an important research question in relation to potential myopia management strategies.
Background: Children are now exposed to another possible environmental risk factor for myopia – smartphones. This study investigates the amount of time students spend on their smartphones and their patterns of smartphone usage from a myopia perspective.
Methods: Primary, secondary, and tertiary level students completed a questionnaire exploring patterns of smartphone usage and assessing their attitudes toward potential myopia risk factors. Device‐recorded data usage over an extended period was quantified as the primary and objective indicator of phone use. Average daily time spent using a smartphone was also quantified by self‐reported estimates. Refractive status was verified by an optometrist.
Results: Smartphone ownership among the 418 students invited to participate was over 99 percent. Average daily smartphone data and time usage was 800.37 ± 1,299.88 MB and 265.16 ± 168.02 minutes, respectively. Myopic students used almost double the amount of smartphone data at 1,130.71 ± 1,748.14 MB per day compared to non‐myopes at 613.63 ± 902.15 MB (p = 0.001). Smartphone time usage was not significantly different (p = 0.09, 12 percent higher among myopes). Multinomial logistic regression revealed that myopic refractive error was statistically significantly associated with increasing daily smartphone data usage (odds ratio 1.08, 95% CI 1.03–1.14) as well as increasing age (odds ratio 1.09, 95% CI 1.02–1.17) and number of myopic parents (odds ratio 1.55, 95% CI 1.06–2.3). Seventy‐three percent of students believed that digital technology might adversely affect their eyes.
Conclusion: This study demonstrates an association between myopia and smartphone data usage. Given the serious nature of the ocular health risks associated with myopia, our findings indicate that this relationship merits more detailed investigation.
https://doi.org/10.1111/cxo.13092McCrann, S., Loughman, J., Butler, J. S., Paudel, N., & Flitcroft, D. I. (2020). Smartphone use as a possible risk factor for myopia. Clinical and Experimental Optometry.