Children are easily influenced. They pick up habits and interests from those they see and meet with every day – and friends are a very important influence in their childhood years. How often have we given in to the demands of our kids when they want a toy they have seen at their friend’s house? It is natural for us to want to see our children happy, and watch their eyes light up with joy when they receive a much-wanted toy. But for this little Tasmanian boy, it was an innocent demand that led to vision problems he will probably suffer throughout his life…
This young boy, like any other child, wanted the very toys his friends had. He convinced his parents to buy this particular toy that he liked very much: a laser pen. When he finally did get it, he was super excited. He started exploring it and playing with it, innocent and oblivious to the damage that could happen. And then, for a very brief moment, he shone it in his eyes.
The boy felt no pain when he shone the pen in his eyes. But the innocent mistake has cost him 75% of his natural vision. It is a loss that cannot be recovered. And all this due to one simple toy – a laser pen. As per reports, the boy got hold of a laser pen that he unfortunately shined in his eyes for a brief period of time. This resulted in laser burns to his retinas at the back of his eyes – very close to the region that helps us with detailed central vision. It is due to this burn damage that most of his vision has now been lost. Several optometrists have studied the case since it was first reported. Some of them have said that once the swelling inside the eye reduces, it can help restore some vision. However, complete recovery is very unlikely.
“His vision is down to about 25 per cent of what we call 20/20 vision and unfortunately at this stage it’s unlikely that that vision is going to recover.”
This means the little one will probably have to live with limited vision for the rest of his life. Surgery or spectacles are not likely to be able to fix this loss.
Horrifying as this incident certainly, it is important to see facts separately from fiction to be able to protect our kids from danger. Since the incident, a number of reports of the story show a picture of a boy with red eyes, cheeks and ears (below). The reports claim that this is the boy in the incident. However, it has now been verified that these claims are false. The photo below is of a boy affected by Trachoma – another eye condition similar to conjunctivitis, which shows symptoms of eye swelling, redness and high temperatures. It seems the picture has been edited to enhance the redness – something that not only sensationalises this painful incident but also hinders our ability to see these two ailments as separate problems with different causes. While the loss of vision in the victim is true, the effects aren’t as visible as stated by these reports – they’re just felt by the victim. Some other children who have suffered similar burns in the retina in the past have reported a black dot in their vision.
What We As Parents Need To Do
This incident has prompted experts to urge parents to not buy laser pointers or pens as toys, no matter how much their child insists. Strong powered laser pens can cause extreme harm to your little one’s eyes. In fact, the high intensity of these lasers can even light matches and cigarettes! Over the years, reports have often come in of companies importing cheap products that are never tested. They can damage not only our children’s eyes but also affect or injure anyone in the path of the laser beam.
While there are government approved laser toys available in the market, you should take a considered decision on if you’d prefer to skip the risk and avoid them altogether. Even though incidents such as this are rare, these laser toys could have other dangerous effects, especially if broken. Here is what the experts studying this case are advising to parents:
“If parents purchase or allow their children to have access to these pens they ought to supervise them very, very carefully and, in fact, better off trying to warn them off them because we’ve just seen in this particular case where the future lifestyle of this young person has been seriously affected.”
As responsible parents, we need to share this true report with other parents, some of whom may be considering buying this very popular toy for their children. We also need to steer clear of spreading rumours and fake imagery but focus instead on the real extent of damage. The vision loss that the boy is suffering is a tragedy he and his parents feel from deep inside, and we sincerely hope that some treatment is possible soon.
With this horrifying incident, there’s one thing we can definitely conclude: lasers are not toys and shouldn’t be treated as such. It’s best to keep them away from our children or buy something only when we are sure of its adherence to safety standards. The effects of untested, powerful lasers can be extremely harmful on little eyes and the resulting damage could be permanent. Let’s not allow a simple toy to become the reason of lifelong grief.