Don’t blame modern media for the country’s worsening eyesight. At least not directly. It’s not staring at a computer screen that causes the problem, it turns out.
It’s a lack of sunlight. Our eyes evolved to operate in bright sunshine. When kids don’t spend enough time outside, their eyes don’t develop properly and far away things start to look blurry. This is a straightforward case of modern life messing with our bodies.
Fortunately, the solution is simple: get outside.
According to the New York Times, numerous studies have shown that kids who spend more time outside are less likely to develop nearsightedness. Our eyes are just poorly adapted to our modern lifestyle. They write:
In short, the biological mechanism that kept our vision naturally sharp for thousands of sunny years has, under new environmental conditions, driven visual development off course. This capacity for previously well-adapted genes to be flummoxed by the modern world can account for many apparent imperfections. Brain wiring that effortlessly recognizes faces, animals and other symmetrical objects can be thrown off by letters and numbers, leading to reading difficulties. A restless nature was once helpful to people who needed to find food sources in the wild, but in today’s classrooms, it’s often classified as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When brains that are adapted for face-to-face social interactions instead encounter a world of e-mail and Twitter — well, recent headlines show what can happen.
Parents can breathe easy about their little nerds reading too much, or spending all their time sucked into a computer screen. That kind of “near work” doesn’t appear to cause nearsightedness. Except that those activities are usually done indoors. So go ahead and encourage your kids to dive into their summer reading. Just have them read outside.
Will your kids be spending enough time outdoors this summer?