Dave talks with Optometrist Babara Vermeulen as Optometrists are raising awareness of the benefits of outdoor time for children’s eyes as new research* reveals that most Australian children are spending more than double the amount of time indoors on screens than the World Health Organisation recommendation.

Optometrists are raising awareness of the benefits of outdoor time for children’s eyes as new
research* reveals that most Australian children are spending more than double the amount of time
indoors on screens than the World Health Organisation recommendation.
The research reports that Australian children spend an average of 2.5 hours on screens each day, with
one in ten, or more than 436,460 children, spending more than four hours1

. The data also reveals
children are spending most of their screen time at home in the lounge (68%) or their bedroom (44%),
compared with school/day care (15%).
The findings were uncovered by Specsavers optometrists as part of a research project designed to
better understand screen use amongst children and parental understanding of their child’s eye
health.
Specsavers optometrist Babara Vermeulen says “As a parent myself, I know how strong the pull of
digital screens is for children and I also know that the way children learn, and play is drastically
changing as technology becomes increasingly incorporated into everyday life.
“It’s no surprise that 89% of Australian parents say digital screen time is top of the list for their
children’s health concerns. But what is surprising for many is that when it comes to eye health, the
biggest problem with screen time is nothing to do with the actual screens. It’s simply the fact that
normally when kids are on screens like phones and computers, there is a lot of near vision work that
is often indoors without natural light. That’s the part that’s bad for your eyes. So other near vision,
inside work like homework and reading can have a similar negative effect on the eye.”
Of parents concerned that their child’s current level of screen time was bad for their health (56%),
three quarters thought it would stop them getting enough exercise (77%) and two thirds believed it
was bad for their eyes (69%) and social skills (69%). While most parents (57%) believe their children
should be spending less time on screens because it’s bad for their health, most are unsure of ways to
tackle it.
“Staring at screens and being indoors for extended periods of time can increase the risk of myopia or
becoming short-sighted. This means the eyes focus well only on close objects, while more distant
objects appear blurred. Children are more at risk of this, as their eyes are still developing,” she says.
“The biggest message I would like to get across to parents is to make sure their children spend time
outside playing and if parents are worried about the impacts of screen time on their child’s eye health,
the best thing to do is to book in to see an optometrist for an eye test.
“The school holidays are the perfect opportunity to encourage healthy eye habits – anything from
running around the garden to helping mum and dad with errands could have a huge benefit for the
eyes!” says Babara.
Other key findings from the research project include;
• Those aged 13-17 are spending an average of 3.2 hours per day on screens. Those aged
between 9-12 are spending an average of 2.4 hours per day on screens. Those aged between

5-8 are spending an average of 2.1 hours per day on screens. Those aged between 0-4 are
spending an average of 1.9 hours per day on screens.
• Aside from eye health concerns (52%), other potential health concerns that parents had
about digital screen time are that all the time spent sedentary is hampering their ability to
develop their gross motor skills (47%), it disrupts their sleep/ can lead to insomnia (46%) and
it negatively affects their mental health (42%)
• Mums (49%) are more likely than Dads (34%) to say that their child’s screen time is one of
their biggest health concerns as a parent.
• Of those that think that the amount of time that their children spend on screens is good for
their health, their children are currently spending an average of 2.4 hours on screens per
day, while of those that think the amount of time that their children spend on screens is bad
for their health, they are currently spending an average of 2.7 hours on screens per day.

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