A technology-driven environment targets our vision

Sight is an irreplaceable sense that allows people to appreciate the beautiful scenery OF South Florida. From the beautiful beaches along Ocean Drive to the farmlands of Homestead to the wetlands in the Everglades. Now digital devices have turned a colorful paradise into a blurry reality.

The evolution of technology over the years has led to the increased use of digital devices at a young age. The revolution of communication has gone from simple phone calls to countless social media platforms where millions spend hours glued to their phones.

​​A study conducted by Common Sense Media, an advocacy organization that reviews and researches media’s effects on kids, found the average teen gets more than 200 notifications on their phone in 24 hours. The study found 97% of participants use their phone during school hours for social media, YouTube, and gaming.

Anais Fleitas is one of many parents navigating the digital landscape. Her 6-year-old daughter Alexa was diagnosed with an electronic device induced myopia. Her daughter is the only family member to wear glasses at such a young age and is now required to stay away from digital devices when possible.

“She spends about 2 hours a day on her phone or iPad or tablet doing homework, i-Ready, and we allow her to use it for 30 minutes a day to play on it or watch videos,” said Fleitas. “We take her to get her vision checked once a year and every year her prescription gets a little worse.”

​The COVID-19 pandemic triggered an unprecedented transformation in workplaces and classrooms across the country. Many turned to technology to stay connected to the world and remote work became the new norm.  According to a study by the National Library of Medicine, the use of digital devices for more than 6 hours before the pandemic was only 12%, but during the pandemic the use increased to 65%.

​Ashley Sanchez, a graduate student studying occupational therapy at FIU, has a history of bad eyesight and has worn glasses since second grade. She has myopia, also known as nearsightedness, which makes far-away objects look blurry. Sanchez says she’s had the most exposure to technology due to online classes.

​”I know that the constant glare that is coming to my eyes out of my screen is not good,” said Sanchez. “It’s something I should prioritize, but unfortunately have not.”

​Dr. Marilyn Zuniga, an optometrist at Baptist Health, became interested in eye health after being the only person in her family to wear glasses. Dr. Zuniga finds computer vision syndrome and dry eyes the growing issues from technology use. She says people blink less while staring at digital devices, so the eyes tend to get dry and irritated.

​”What’s concerning about myopia is that it can lead to other conditions, including retinal detachment, glaucoma, myopic degeneration, and can lead to permanent blindness,” explained Dr. Zuniga. “In 2010, they estimated about 22% of the population has myopia and they’re estimating that about 50% of the patient population is going to end up with myopia by 2050.”

​Valeria Aldana, who was nearsighted, decided to get LASIK surgery after her eyesight got worse every year. According to the Food and Drug Administration, the procedure “permanently changes the shape of the cornea and the clear covering of the front of the eye using an excimer laser.”

​”It was not a last-minute decision, I’ve been considering it for a long time,” explained Aldana. “My dad got it and I knew my doctor and a few other ophthalmologists told me that you have to wait until after you’re 25. I didn’t do it because I was scared for a long time.”

​Aldana says the surgeon put numbing drops in her eyes and she only felt some pressure during the 15-minute procedure. After the surgery, she had to wear protective goggles to protect her eyes.According to Mayo Clinic, , more than 8 out of 10 people who’ve undergone LASIK refractive surgery no longer need to use their glasses or contact lenses for most of their activities. 

​”I don’t think I’ve seen this well since I was maybe 8 or 10, that’s the last time I remember having good vision. I can see way better than what I could’ve done with my glasses,” said Aldana.

​Some people are not willing to take the risk or are eligible for LASIK surgery. Amanda Rodriguez, president of the Pre-Optometry Club at FIU, got into optometry after discovering she had a high myopic prescription. Rodriguez, who prefers using contacts, is a strong advocate for eye health but opted out of LASIK surgery.

​”I probably wouldn’t be a candidate because my cornea is probably not as thick as it needs to be for me to be a candidate,” said Rodriguez.The KRAFF Eye Institute says your eyes are not meant to focus on a digital screen for long periods of time without breaks. They recommend following the 20/20/20 rule, which means if you look at the screen for 20 minutes, you must look at something at least 20 feet away from you for 20 seconds.

Kathleen Vargas Rodriguez is a Cuban bilingual journalist with an interest in social media and web design at Florida International University. Vargas is the Communications Director at Catholic Youth Movement. Her role at the non-profit is to manage social media accounts and the website. Vargas will graduate from the Lee Caplin School of Journalism with a bachelor’s degree in digital and interactive media in Fall 2024.

Fiorella Mora is a bilingual journalist at Florida International University with experience in marketing. Mora is an intern who oversees marketing activities at FIU Athletics. She has experience in editing, social media management, and photography. Mora is interested in news reporting where she hopes to use her bilingual skills and digital communication experience in the industry. Mora will graduate from the Lee Caplin School of Journalism with a bachelor’s degree in digital and interactive media in Spring 2024.