How Does Prolonged Screen Time Affect Your Vision?

Growing up, we’ve heard our parents tell us not to watch TV for too long because it’s “bad” for our eyes. But what does that mean? Does prolonged screen viewing cause damage to our eyes? Or is there no effect at all? In this generation, technology has increasingly become a part of our everyday lives, making us more reliant on it. In fact, 97% of classrooms in the United States have at least one computer for children to use, and smart devices are becoming readily available and given to kids less than five years old. As screen time rises, parents worry about the harmful effects of increased screen exposure and indeed, extensive electronic use can cause eye strain when looking at the screen for too long.

Eye strain is a repetitive strain injury caused by insufficient rest to the muscles. Glare from the amount of light that shines into your eyes and the position of the computer can also lead to muscle fatigue. Dry Eye syndrome, a condition where a person’s eye doesn’t produce enough tears to keep the eye lubricated, is often mistaken as an effect to screen exposure. Tears are necessary for the eye to maintain a healthy front surface to provide clear vision. Those with Dry Eye Syndrome tend to experience a burning sensation of the eye, irritation, sensitivity to light, redness, watery eyes, and blurry vision. Common causes of this syndrome are aging, medical problems like diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorder, Vitamin A deficiency and more. Studies have shown that our eyes blink on average 12 times per minute. So the dry eyes, irritation, tears, and all symptoms similar to Dry Eye Syndrome, do not equate to the syndrome itself, but rather, it is us as humans forgetting to blink a sufficient amount when looking at a screen. Similar effects can also develop when straining your eyes to read a book.

In today’s generation, studies have shown that increased screen exposure to children at young ages result in higher frequency of myopia, or nearsightedness, due to a child’s habit of holding electronics very close to his or her face and the lack of outdoor activities to allow the eyes to exercise short and long distance vision.

The most important thing in alleviating eye strain is to rest your eyes. It is crucial to deliberately blink frequently if you are at your computer for extended periods of time so that the tears used to lubricate your eyes do not evaporate. Positioning your computer correctly, about 18-30 inches away from your face in a 10 to 15 degree slant can aide with minimizing eye strain. Lowering the glare will help with excessive use of your eye muscles as well. You can also use the “20-20-20 rule” to rest your muscles. Stop looking at your screen every 20 minutes and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Closing your eyes for a few minutes every 30 minutes also provides the same effects.

For adolescents, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has revised their recommendation for childhood screen time. They recommend little to no screen exposure to kids 18 months or younger. For children between 18 months to 2 years old, screen time should be limited and supervised, and topics of screen time should be educational since children learn at an accelerated rate in the first few years. For children between the ages of 2 to 5 years old, screen time should be limited to one hour a day, and the same limits should still be in place for children 6 years and older. It is crucial to make sure that electronics do not inhibit a child’s every day activity.

References:

Bhola, R., Dr. (2017, August 23). The Effects of Too Much Screen Time on Children's Vision. Retrieved from https://blog.chocchildrens.org/effects-of-screen-time-on-childrens-vision/

Cashin-Garbutt, A. (2018, August 23). Does looking at a computer damage your eyes? Retrieved from https://www.news-medical.net/health/Does-looking-at-a-computer-damage-your-eyes.aspx

Computer vision syndrome: Is your computer affecting your vision? (2018, Sep 17). Hamilton News, Mountain Edition Retrieved from http://proxy.library.nyu.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.proxy.library.nyu.edu/docview/2108572536?accountid=12768

Walida Ali