Where there is no vision, the people perish.  Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)

I often get asked where I get ideas for writing this blog. I guess the best answer is everywhere and anywhere. I am constantly looking for ideas or trends which might impact the mentoring of the next generation.

This idea came out of the blue from a conversation with a woman at our small group last night. She was describing the digital generation as having poor peripheral vision because they have focused their eyes on the screens of their iPads, computers or smartphones.

She was right. I researched the impact of the digital world on eyesight and found that loss of peripheral vision is just one of many vision problems caused by overuse of digital devices.

Peripheral vision is the ability of your eye to capture side vision when looking straight ahead.

Lack of peripheral vision can be a problem in a number of activities, including driving a car and most sports.  That’s a scary thought, particularly in a world where many drivers are already distracted by texting or using their phone.

The incidence of Glaucoma is increasing, although the connection with the digital world has not been made (yet).  It is an eye disease that produces tunnel vision.

Studies show that 40% of millennials spend an average of 9 hours a day watching a digital device. Generation Z is slightly less with 30%, while only 25% of Baby Boomers spend that amount of time per day.

Add to that the fact that most in the next generation feel invincible. I know I did at that age. They are not thinking about what digital usage will do to their eyes 20 or 30 years from now.

The only analogy I can think of is that my generation was oblivious to the perils of getting sunburned. We did it all the time, mostly to have a good tan.

In my day, science hadn’t confirmed that excess exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer.  There was no such thing as a suntan product with SPF that you could use to protect yourself from overexposure.

I can attest to that. I go to my dermatologist every 6 months to have him examine my body to see if there are any cancerous spots that need to be removed.  It is a rare visit when I don’t have something frozen off or removed surgically.

We didn’t know any better and were oblivious to the risks of sunburn. By the same token, the millennials aren’t thinking about long-term eye damage today. Studies now show that 70% of millennials have some level of eye strain.

Add to that increasing evidence that the blue light emitted by smartphones at night can cause retinal damage, possibly resulting in loss of eyesight.

There is now a name for this:  Computer Vision Syndrome (or CVS)  This is a broad term covering cases where patients complain of symptoms of irritation, eye redness, blurry vision and headaches resulting from a digital environment.

I have written about the impact of the digital world on the emotional, intellectual  and social well-being of the next generation. Now, it appears, there is a physical side effect:  damaged eyesight.

Going to a dermatologist frequently is a lesser price to pay for getting sunburned when young than becoming blind or having eyesight issues in later life. Some digital damage to millennial eyes can be permanent and irreversible.

As a friend of mine recently said: Being wealthy but not healthy is terrible. He wouldn’t exchange health for wealth. He spent his working years saving for retirement and now is dealing with medical issues that limit his enjoyment of life.

Reducing screen time has more benefits than just  emotional and mental well-being. This is not just a millennial problem, by the way. Recent research show that Americans  spend almost half of their waking hours looking at screens.

That same research reported that respondents had to take a break at least every 4 hours for “eye discomfort”. The research did not go mention that digital overuse can actually cause permanent damage to eyesight.

Our challenge is to alert digital natives that they are an “at-risk’ group for permanent and long-term eye damage. While they may not “perish” as suggested by Proverbs, they could find themselves living a life limited by damaged vision if corrective steps aren’t taken.

MENTOR TAKEAWAY:  Mentees are generally unaware of the consequences of overuse of digital media on their eyes. Mentors can help educate them to the risks.

FURTHER RESEARCH:  Vision problems of the next generation.

Retinal damage due to blue light emissions.

Four Ways Millennials Unknowingly Increase Their Risk for Vision Loss.

WORSHIP:  Listen to a contemporary take on the Irish hymn: Be Thou My Vision.

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