Like it or not, we are in the digital age. Computer screens, smart phones, tablets, and other similar devices have become intertwined into our everyday lives—according to TIME, about 90% of Americans use such devices for more than a couple hours each day and nearly 70% are glued to multiple screens at once. Unfortunately, digital eye strain is becoming more and more of a problem the more we use advanced technology that is supposed to make our lives easier.
All this eyeballing indeed comes at a cost, with symptoms including physical discomfort such as dry and irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches and neck or back pain. It is time to open up our eyes and minds to the reality that digital screens can in fact be harmful to our health. For parents, teachers, or those just worried about what prolonged digital eye straining will do, here is some important information to take note of.
Digital Screens and Your Children’s Eyes
The most common side-effects of using digital devices are Digital Eye Strain along with Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). Kids can easily experience symptoms from improperly holding devices too close to their eyes as a result of small text or pixelated images on the screen. This may be a factor in the development of nearsightedness, which has increased significantly in prevalence in the last several decades.
Another factor to be aware of is the amount of blue light emitted by digital devices. Frequent exposure– especially at night—is known to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin, causing artificial feelings of wakefulness and abnormal sleep patterns, which can lead to even more eye strain. And according to a recent NEI-funded study, children’s eyes seem to absorb more blue light than adults from digital device screens.
Reducing Risk and Addressing Concerns
Just like other muscles in the body, our eyes are in need of varied “workouts” as well as a break from prolonged strain. There are certain actions that can be taken to make sure both children and adults alike avoid long term consequences such as irreversible retina damage.
If time in front of a computer screen is unavoidable, protect those windows to the soul by taking these precautions:
• Maintain good posture, not too close to your screen
• Adjust screen positions or lighting
• Take frequent breaks
• Blink often
• Consider computer eyewear such as anti-reflective lenses or filters for screens that can help absorb blue light and limit the amount that reaches the retina.
Parents might also want to set clear boundaries and guidelines with their kids to help minimize the use of electronics and to reduce the risk of potential myopia.
Luckily, reducing or eliminating the symptoms of CVS are actually quite easy. Be sure to keep eye health a priority by taking simple preventive measures, by getting regular eye checkups, and by incorporating healthy eating habits that can help eyes stay healthier longer.
Incorporate the 20-20-20 rule into that daily routine (for every 20 minutes spent with the screen, allow for a 20 second break while looking 20 feet away) – this will relax key focus muscles.
Though small and unassuming, digital screens can be damaging to health, as the hours we focus our eyes on digital screens is akin to our body going through an exhaustive endurance workout. By all means work, play, travel, and live responsibly by acknowledging the fact that though computers or other devices are not going anywhere any time soon, there are smarter and wiser ways to use them to make the best out of their modern conveniences.
For more information on the effects of digital eye strain, as well additional measures to maintaining vision and eye health, contact Caster Eye Center today! Dr. Andrew Caster can be of service to offer various options to protect you, your family, and your eyes from digital screens.