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Children under age 6 should try their best not to use cellphones or computers, the National Health Commission has said, in a bid to protect them from nearsightedness, or myopia.

The commission also advised against parents using electronics in the presence of their children.

The advice came when the commission recently made public the results of a survey on myopia among children and youths.

The survey found that 53.6 percent of Chinese children and teenagers suffered from nearsightedness in 2018. The myopia rate was 14.5 percent for 6-year-olds in kindergarten, 36 percent for primary school students, 71.6 percent for junior middle school students, and 81 percent for senior middle school students.

The commission said age 0-6 is a critical time for vision development, and special emphasis should be put on the protection and health of eyesight at an early stage.

It added that one of the major causes of myopia is short-distance exposure over a long period of time to the electronic screens of cellphones, computers and televisions.

At primary and middle schools, teaching with electronics should be limited to no more than 30 percent of overall teaching time. During extracurricular periods, students should take a rest of 10 minutes after using electronic products for learning for 30-40 minutes. Electronic use not aimed at learning should be no more than 15 minutes per instance, with total use amounting to no more than one hour a day.

In addition, the commission made suggestions on outdoor exercises. It said children and teenagers should limit the continuous use of eyes in reading and writing to no more than 40 minutes and leave enough time for outdoor activities in the daytime. Teachers and parents should guide children to actively take part in exercises, with no less than two hours of outdoor activities in the daytime. Boarding kindergartens should have no less than three hours of outdoor activities a day.

China rolled out a scheme last year to curb the rise in nearsightedness among children and teenagers. The scheme, jointly issued by the Ministry of Education, the National Health Commission and six other departments, aims to keep the myopia rate among 6-year-olds at around 3 percent by 2030, and the rate among junior and senior high school students below 60 percent and 70 percent respectively.