KUALA LUMPUR, April 20 – With families remaining indoors under the Movement Control Order (MCO) which is now into its third phase, the time spent each day by family members on their gadgets – handphones, computer, tablets, game consoles and television – has definitely increased.
Dr Norazah Abdul Rahman, a consultant ophthalmologist and pediatric ophthalmologist at Ara Damansara Medical Centre, said parents should be concerned about this and should control their children’s screen time in order to maintain good eye health and safety.
“Screen time is now not limited to entertainment, as there are now even online classes, while children as young as four years old are routinely logging on to online gaming platforms or watching videos on YouTube and on-demand TV.
“On the average, Malaysian young children spend most of their 12 to 16 waking hours in front of a laptop, television or smart phone, and almost never have outdoor activities,” she told Bernama.
Dr Norazah stressed that too much screen time could lead to eyesight problems for children, with symptoms like frequent blinking, abnormal visual behavior and consistent rubbing of the eyes.
“In adults, digital eyestrain is often manifested by headaches, eye pain, foreign body sensation, occasional blurring of vision and body ache,” she said.
She also discouraged usage of any digital device for children under 18 months of age, while in the case of those between the ages of two to five years, screen time of high quality programming should be limited to two hours a day.
“With the global pandemic going on, our eyes and health must be a priority,” she said.
Dr Norazah advised parents to practise the 20-20-20 rule, where children are encouraged to take frequent breaks from the digital screen every 20 minutes by looking at objects 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
“This helps to break strong accommodation reflex and eventually reduce the eyestrain.
Frequent use of lubricant eye drops may also help to alleviate the dry eye symptom. Children may not complain of eye pain but they do show signs like frequent rubbing eyes or abnormal blinking,” she said.
At the same time, she said, people need to get away from digital screens or the television at least once a week and use the time for other skill enhancement pursuits such as painting, playing musical instruments or simply do light exercises.
“After the MCO period ends, these are the moments that you will cherish as life becomes hectic again, and you have missed the opportunity to do all those other activities,” she said.
Dr Norazah also reminded adults to limit screen time to work-related processes, video calls to loved ones and catching up on news from reliable sources.
“Always practise ergonomics of the workstation, as well as ‘eyegonomics’, which is placing the screen 20 to 26 inches from your eyes, and 15 degrees below eye level.
“It is essential to prevent bad posturing, musculoskeletal pain and dry eyes. Using a blue light screen filter helps to reduce glare and harsh reflections from the screen,” she said.
Meanwhile, human resource manager in a construction firm, Nur Fadzriny Mohamed Fadzill,35, said she realised that her children’s use of gadgets had increased during the MCO period.
However, she said, she limited the time her sons, Muhammad Faris Abdul Razak,10, and Muhammad Fahim Abdul Razak,7, spent on the handphone and tablet to four hours a day.
“Initially, I allowed them to play games on the gadgets, but that affected their sleep hours, so I decided to limit the amount of time they are online,” she said, adding that she now takes the handphone and tablet from the children at night