Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed concern over the excessive and protracted use of electronic gadgets among Filipino children which affects not only their vision but also their general health condition and development.
De Lima said the recent health warning that visual impairment due to excessive use of gadgets among children is growing at epidemic proportions should compel concerned government agencies to re-examine the impact of technology to children.
“If we look around, our children spend most of their valuable time on their mobile phones or tablets. Not only does it impair their vision but also it negatively affects their physical and social development,” she said.
“While modern technology has tremendously brought us free and easy access to vast information, our excessive and protracted use of gadgets and internet is weighing down on our physical development and social interactions,” she added.
The Department of Health (DOH) has earlier raised an alarm over the growing number of children in developed cities like Metro Manila and Metro Cebu who are now suffering from myopia or near-sightedness due to constant use of electronic gadgets.
According to Health Undersecretary Eric Domingo, the rise in visual impairment among school-age children can be attributed to excessive use of gadgets which have been tapped as “babysitter” to keep the children occupied.
Domingo, who is also an ophthalmologist, claimed the excessive use of gadgets can hamper the development of a child’s eyesight. Other health experts claimed the excessive use of gadgets may also lead to focal seizures and other mental health problems.
De Lima, who now chairs the Senate Social Justice, Welfare and Rural Development Committee, said she hopes that her fellow senators will heed the health experts’ warning by prioritizing Senate Bill (SB) No. 1709, or the “National Sight Strategy Plan Act”, which she filed last February.
“Considering that sight is one of the most valued senses, the rise in visual impairment among children poses a serious public health issue,” she said
“I hope that after the DOH raised the alarm on what it described as ‘epidemic’ of near-sightedness among children, my colleagues in the Senate will be compelled to expedite the passage into law of my proposed bill,” she added.
Under De Lima’s proposed measure, DOH is mandated to formulate a National Sight Strategy that would address the collection, collation, organization and publication of data and statistics on the incidence and prevalence of vision abnormalities.
Moreover, the DOH shall lead in the formulation and implementation of a comprehensive national strategy to address vision health issues, including the conduct of public education promoting and improving vision health at all ages.
“Now that children can easily have an access to different devices at any time of the day, there is a higher tendency that they can suffer from near-sightedness. We do not want them to diminish not only their vision but also, most importantly, their general well-being,” De Lima added.
The proposed measure also mandates the DOH to take the lead in the development of the study and practice of vision health-related professions and the undertaking of studies and consultation to formulate recommendations on the inclusion of vision care services in national health programs.