72% of Chinese kids are myopic (blame screen time)

From The Economist:

THE PHONE on Wang Xiaoying’s desk rings incessantly on a weekday morning. An optometrist in Shanghai, Ms Wang doubles as a part-time operator for China’s first publicly funded call centre providing information about myopia. It began operating on January 7th. Most callers are parents who worry about the deteriorating eyesight of their young offspring.

“Make sure your child spends two hours outdoors each day!” Ms Wang often urges them. Another tip she offers is to avoid reading when supine. Trying to focus on an object held up by an unsteady arm is likely to strain the eyes, some experts believe.

The government reckons that more than 450m people in China, or at least one in three, are short-sighted (meaning that distant objects appear blurry). Globally just over one in five are. The prevalence of myopia among Chinese schoolchildren is even more alarming. In 2018 an official survey of 1m pupils found that among those aged between 12 and 14, 72% had myopia, up from 58% in 2010. Early onset of myopia is associated with a higher risk of eye diseases such as glaucoma, which can lead to blindness. In 2018 Xi Jinping, the president, declared the swelling ranks of young myopes a “big problem concerning the future of the country” which “must not carry on”.

The last few days I’ve noticed my own kids mostly on screens.  They have a 30 minute limit for fun stuff (watching silly videos), but the school assigns them lots of online homework.  It’s harder to monitor.

Me: Your online time is up.

Kid: I’m doing homework.

Me: (20 minutes) Hmm, that doesn’t look like homework.

Kid: (sheepish grin) Ooops I got distracted.

The key is to have each kid enrolled in a sport that practices every day (or at least several times a week).  It’s a system for generating that needed active time, without parent cajoling, particularly hard on cold winter days when it’s dark.

This winter our son is on a basketball team that plays just once a week, and plays dodgeball another day.  Our daughter has karate 2 days a week.  We’re not close to that active 2 hour per day goal.  But we’ll reboot in spring.