Doctors seeing more nearsighted kids

Electronics could be to blame for vision problems

Author: Mary Baer, Anchor, mbaer@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 05 2014 09:57:08 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 05 2014 10:40:00 PM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Chances are, you've heard your mother or father tell you not to sit too close to the television in your lifetime, well that phrase has new meaning with all the high-tech, bright electronics kids are using today.

Parents are finding out that all the game play on their kids Xbox, tablets or iPad, are hurting their eyes.

Sherry Field has three children and when they started complaining of headaches, she decided to get their eyes checked.

"Headaches, a lot of headaches and grumpiness after school and during computer time, extreme grumpiness," said Field.

After an eye exam, Field learned that two of her three children would need glasses. Jacksonville ophthalmologist Dr. Hanaa Habashi said she's been telling more and more parents in Jacksonville that their kids need glasses.

"Right now they come in and they're nearsighted and so we're testing their vision far away and up close, and we're finding that there's an imbalance between the muscle system and the focusing system, and I'm seeing that a lot more lately with kids getting younger and younger," said Habashi.

According to the National Eye Institute, nearsightedness in children has increased from 25 percent in the 1970s to 41 percent today.

Doctors say the eye-strain that comes along with the use of electronics -- like video games, iPads and tablets -- could be what's causing the increase in bad vision.

"I'm seeing a lot more kids in bifocals, a lot more kids going into progressive lenses and I'm hearing good feedback from the parents once their kids are in these type of lenses doing better in school, sports, comprehension is better," said Habashi.

"In this age of electronics their eyes go through a lot more strain than when we were kids. I didn't have an Xbox and I didn't have an iPad, so I just had books," said Field.

Field said she never would have guessed that her kids headaches were coming from straining their eyes.

"If they're telling you they have a headache listen to them, and if it's more than just a headache once a week, it could be their eyes. That's what I found. That's what it was," said Field.

Habashi has some good advice for parents, too: Make sure kids are keeping those bright screens at an appropriate distance from their face.

"It shouldn't be too far out, it shouldn't be like this, you should be a nice comfortable distance where your elbow is bent, and you're holding, the distance from your phone to your face should be about the distance from your wrist to your elbow," said Habashi.