Eye specialists in New Zealand report that they are seeing unprecedented numbers of children with serious eye problems such as myopia due to excessive screen use. They are urging government intervention on the issue. Children’s developing eyes are the most at risk of developing a severe form of myopia, which can lead to blindness as adults. Experts say the best protection against progressive myopia and general eye health is to spend as much time as possible outdoors in natural light, getting used to the environment and its dimensions.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released new guidelines recommending no screen time before a child’s first birthday, and one hour of screen time per day for toddlers and preschoolers. WHO hopes the guidelines will free up time for critical physical activity, human interaction, and sleep needed by young children The new guidelines were developed in collaboration with WHO’s Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity, and will be part of WHO’s Global Action Plan on Physical Activity 2018–2030.
Amid growing safety fears, some U.S. communities have banned the crumb rubber infill used in playgrounds and sports fields around the country. Some experts and lawmakers are concerned about the possible health effects of the material on children. The material, which is made from recycled tires, can contain heavy metals like lead and manganese, volatile organic compounds like toluene, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons. The chemicals are associated with cancer and other illnesses at certain levels of exposure.
Virginia has established an Office of Outdoor Recreation, becoming the 15th state with either an office or task force dedicated solely to strengthening economic development and the outdoor recreation economy. The new state agency will help grow the state’s outdoor industry, working towards land conservation, workforce development, and public health goals. Earlier this month, Wisconsin established its own office of outdoor recreation. In addition, New Hampshire and California currently are working on legislation to create there own state offices.
Washington State Governor Jay Inslee announced that $1.3 million of funding will be provided for the state’s No Child Left Inside grant. The funding will give over 14,000 children the chance to explore Washington parks, forests, and outdoor recreational areas across the state, with a focus on outdoor educational and recreational programs for youths in low-income families.
According to a new APM Research Lab survey, a third of U.S. residents say their job and work obligations are stopping them from spending more time in nature. The survey polled 1,000 U.S. adults and found that thirty-one percent of people cited work as their major barrier to getting outdoors.
Researchers at the University of Plymouth in Devon in the U.K. found that just being able to see green spaces while indoors is associated with reduced cravings for alcohol, cigarettes and unhealthy foods. The study, which was published in the journal Health & Place, showed that even passive exposure to nearby green areas is linked with fewer cravings and the strength of those cravings.
Researchers at the University of Montreal followed almost 4,000 Canadians aged 12 to 16 over four years, surveying them on their screen habits. Over the course of the study, the use of social media and television in adolescents was shown to enhance symptoms of depression, with girls and those who reported lower socioeconomic status showing more severe symptoms of depression.