A study links smartphone use to dry eye in children.

A new study suggests that it's time to have your child put down the smartphone and start spending more time outdoors.

Researchers found a link between prolonged smartphone use and pediatric dry eye disease, the American Optometric Association reports. They also found that outdoor activity seemed to hedge against the disorder.

AOA explains: "In fact, children with dry eye symptoms who went four weeks without a smartphone actually showed subjective and objective signs of improvement."

The Korean study, which involved 916 children ages 7 to 12, was published in BMC Ophthalmology.

According to AOA: "Researchers postulate that a reduced blink rate during prolonged smartphone usage causes faster evaporation of the lubricating tear film, citing a separate study that found computer screen use versus reading reduced the blink rate to only 5-6 blinks per minute."

Dr. Ida Chung, AOA InfantSEE and Children's Vision Committee member, said the study underscores the importance of routine, in-person comprehensive eye examinations for children. While this Korean study found up to 65 percent of children are using digital devices routinely, a recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that 97 percent of American children under age 4 use mobile devices.

"Children with dry eye disease may be underdiagnosed," Chung said, reviewing the study. "I agree with the authors' conclusion that dry eye disease must be detected early and should be treated with appropriate intervention and education. The best way to ensure this happens is to have parents think about their children's eyes and bring them to their doctor of optometry for a comprehensive eye examination."

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