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Are Smartphones Ruining Our Kids' Eyes?

Smartphones may do more harm than good for our kids' eyes
Photograph by Getty Images/iStockphoto

It's nothing new; experts have warned against too much screen time for years. Two decades ago, we can remember our moms scolding us about sitting too close to the TV set (during what was probably no more than 30-minutes of JEM). But in 2013 the amount of screen time our kids get in now is mind-boggling—especially when you bring smartphones into the mix. And if new research is to be believed, we should keep away from precisely those devices.

A British surgeon is speaking out about the downsides of our global obsession with smartphones, citing the fact that it's causing us all to have myopia (aka nearsightedness). As Dr. David Allamby told FemaleFirst.co.uk, he's found a 35 percent increase in patients with advancing myopia since smartphones first hit the market (and rocked our world) in 1997. But the real scary part? He says that worsening myopia in kids and young adults could actually skyrocket to 50 percent in just 10 years as a result of all their current Tweeting, Instagramming, Snapchatting and who knows what else.

"If things continue as they are," he said, "I predict that 40 to 50 percent of 30-year-olds could have Myopia by 2033 as a result of smartphones and lifestyles in front of screens, an epidemic we call Screen-Sightedness. People need to ensure they limit screen time wherever possible even by going outside without their phone for a period of time each day, and also seriously consider the age at which they give their children a smartphone," Allamby said.

Yikes. Looks like you finally have a solid excuse not to get your 11-year-old that iPhone.

But to be fair, all of the blame can't be heaped onto smartphones alone. After all, we spend hours in front of computers all day, are slaves to our favorite TV shows, and have even taken up a love of tablets in recent years. There are literally screens everywhere. Still, there's one big reason smartphones are getting the brunt of the criticism: We hold them pretty darn close to our eyes, when you think about it. In fact, research shows that the average user holds their headset just 30 cm away from their face, compared to newspapers and books, which we hold around 40 cm away.

All that up-close-and-personal screen time is definitely taking a toll on our poor eyeballs, since the genes that control myopia are activated well beyond the age of 21, when near-sightedness should stabilize. So while myopia used to drop off in the early 20s for most people, it looks like we're taking it with us through our 20s, 30s, and even into our 40s...

Does this news make you reconsider how much screen time you let your kids have?

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