Things are busy on a rainy Saturday afternoon when I make a trip to the mall to finalize some back-to-school shopping. I pass by a lot of people, including several parents with young children under two years old, in strollers, and am struck by the fact that all of the children have a tablet or phone in their hands. Has technology become the ultimate tool for keeping children calm?
As an optometrist and eye health expert, this observation saddens me every time I see it, since I know all the harmful effects such exposure to electronic tools can have on children.
Visual development of children
The human eye develops through stimulation. The quality of the optical stimulus influences the growth of the eyeball via a complex and balanced mechanism. At birth, the eye is hyperopic, that is to say, its power is not perfectly adjusted to its size. A child sees at short distances and is barely able to distinguish a shadow when grandpa comes to the bedroom door.
In the first few weeks, the eye grows, the retina matures and a balance is established between the growth of the eyeball and the power of the inner lens. At six months of age, each of the toddler’s two eyes has the vision of an adult eye. From this moment on, the eyes will develop their coordination, in order to generate vision in three dimensions. It’s also starting at the age of six months that the communication between the eyes develops in the visual brain as well.
Billions of neurological connections will have to be made during the first eight years of life. This maturation time is long, but necessary, considering that more than a third of the brain’s neurons are dedicated to vision.