Lethal Attraction

  • Farhat Jahan
  • Publish Date: Feb 26 2018 1:01AM
  • |
  • Updated Date: Feb 26 2018 1:01AM
Lethal Attraction

Why smart phones are a health hazard for children


Excessive use of smart phones is damaging children’s eyesight at an alarming rate in Kashmir, doctors warn.

Chiefly, the children are developing Computer Vision Syndrome, says Dr Aatif Ali Mir, an ophthalmologist at ASG Eye Hospital in Srinagar. The syndrome is marked by myopia or short sightedness, dryness, pain, irritation and even allergy in the eyes. Aatif cited the case of a patient, a schoolboy named Aahil. He had been using smart phones – his parents’, for watching videos, playing games – since several years when his eyes starting hurting. He did not tell his parents fearing they would forbid him from using a phone. Only when the pain grew unbearable did he complain to his parents. They consulted Aatif who diagnosed the child with myopia. “Aahil loved to read books but he lost interest after he got addicted to the phone,” rued his father.

Aatif says his hospital sees 40-50 children every month who come with complaints of foreign body sensation in eyes, watering, neck pain, headache, blurred vision. “Classical symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome,” he adds.

Smartphone screens emit blue-violet light, extensive exposure to which can damage vision, said Aatif. Some of the radiations from smart phones are also known to cause what’s known as laser burn. “The person with laser burn would never be able to see normally. It’s permanent and cannot be cured,” he said. “We get a patient or two with laser burn every month.”

Staring at a screen for a long period causes the eyes to blink at much less than the normal rate, which strains eye muscles. It also demands fine motor skills, which aren’t developed in children, putting them at greater risk of developing Computer Vision Syndrome. Moreover, the blue light emitted by the screen penetrates children’s eyes easily and deeper. According to the American Optometric Association, blue light is “very near ultraviolet light in wavelength and energy and thus very dangerous”. It can lead to macular degeneration with age, which can cause blindness.

Yet, largely because parents are not fully aware of the health risks, smart phone use among children is only growing in Kashmir. A quick survey of students in classes 5, 6 and 7 at SRM Welkin, Sopore, found that most of them use phones, the majority for over two hours a day, playing games and surfing the web. They largely use their parents’ or siblings’ phones but many carry their own.

The American Optometric Association advises parents to ensure their children do not stare at a phone for more than two hours at a stretch. At the least, they should follow the 20-20-20 rule: take a 20-second break after every 20 minutes of looking at the phone and look away at something about 20 feet away. They must also be regularly taken for eye check-ups.

Not just ocular health, excessive smart phone use also causes neck and back pain, in both children and adults. It can disturb mental health and weaken memory as well, warns Dr Akash Yousuf Khan, a psychiatrist at Sub District Hospital, Sopore. “It could disturb biological clock of the body also and give rise to insomnia."