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Eyesight In Children Appears To Be Declining; Electronics To Blame?

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Mary Kay Kleist Mary Kay Kleist
Mary Kay Kleist is a meteorologist for CBS 2 Chicago. Kleist joined...
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(CBS)  — It seems younger kids are needing glasses these days, and their prescriptions are getting stronger with each visit to the eye doctor.

American kids are among those with the highest risk. So what’s robbing them of their 20/20 vision? CBS 2’s Mary Kay Kleist explains.

The world is becoming more out of focus some kids.

“My eyes were blurry,” says Scarlet Berchman, 5.

“The hoop and the basketball just seem way smaller. It’s way harder,” basketball player Owen Takahashi, 9, says.

But now Owen wears prescription sports glasses to see the hoop.

He’s been wearing glasses since kindergarten, 3 ½ years ago.

“Yes, I was surprised,” his mother, Alison Takahashi, says. “He never once complained or said anything about having a hard time seeing.”

It’s a sign of the times, says Dr. Robert Steinmetz, optometrist and owner of Solo Eyecare and Eyewear.

“Recently we’re seeing more and more children come in with nearsightedness in first and second and third grade,” he says.

Computers, tablets, cell phones. Is all of this focusing on electronics at close range taking a toll the eyes of children?

“Some studies have shown that that increased focus has contributed to nearsightedness,” Steinmetz says.

And it’s not just kids. The National Eye Institute found a 66 percent increase in nearsightedness for all ages, since the early-‘70s, the era when electronics started coming into homes.

So what can parents do?

“Try to maximize that distance between their eye and the device,” Dr. Steinmetz says.

One way to do that is to place a fist on your chin. The space between the knuckles and the elbow is the perfect distance.

There’s also the “20-20-20 rule.”

“For every 20 minutes they spend on the device, I like them to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This decreases the visual demand they have in there,” Steinmetz says.

And of course the obvious: Limit the time children spend on electronics. Have them go outside and play.

Steinmetz says another possible reason for the increase is that Illinois requires comprehensive eye exams for all children before entering kindergarten.

 

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