Let’s identify a large number of children, say 2800 children, at 1 year of age, and follow them for 14 years! Along the way, let’s ask their parents how much time they spend outdoors. Then, when they are 10-15 years old, give them eye exams to determine how many of them have become myopic (nearsighted).
This is the essence of a research study conducted in England, that looked at the correlation between time spent outdoors at any early age (3 to 9 years old) and development of myopia in early adolescence (10-15 years old). The result of this epidemiological study was quite pronounced. “Additional time spent outdoors across the 3 to 9 years age range was associated with a reduced incidence of myopia between ages 10 and 15 years.” The exact mechanism for this effect is not known, but the evidence supporting time outdoors as an effective intervention to reduce the prevalence of myopia is mounting. In other words, this is not the first study to demonstrate this association. Dr. Christine Allison wrote about this over 6 years ago!
Wow! If you want to decrease the likelihood of your young children becoming myopic, send them outside to play! That’s right, turn off the TV, the cell phone, and the video game console and turn them loose in the schoolyard, the backyard and the playground.
I have to believe that more time outdoors is important for reasons other than reducing the risk of developing myopia. Movement is an essential component of child development and vision development. They need to experience a 3-D world. Screens cannot offer this experience. The association between time outdoors and decreased risk of myopia is really the icing on the cake. Does your child have a birthday coming up? Make a cake and serve it outdoors, after the kids have worn themselves out happily playing backyard games.
Here is more information about the importance of play: