According to a 2015 report published in the Daily Mail, many people spend more time on their devices than they do sleeping. A recent Nielsen Company audience report also found that adults in the United States devote about 10 hours and 40 minutes each day to consuming media on their personal computers, tablets, multimedia devices, TVs, and more. Researchers continue to study the effects of screen time on personal health, but there is reason to believe that screen time may be especially harmful to vision. Devices force the eyes to focus at near range, and over time that can have an adverse effect on vision.
Prevent Blindness America says that eye fatigue, dryness and blurred vision are some of the common effects of prolonged screen use, but these are not the only concerns. Digital devices also expose the eyes to blue light. While research as to how blue light impacts vision is ongoing, there is concern over the long-term effects of screen exposure since these screens are in close proximity to the eyes and use is often prolonged. Prevent Blindness America says that studies suggest continued exposure to blue light over time can lead to difficulty focusing, premature aging of the eyes and even damage to retinal cells.
A recent study by the National Eye Institute found the frequency of myopia, also known as near-sightedness, has increased exponentially in the last few years. Reasons include a spike in time spent looking at things close-up and a lack of outdoor activities that require focusing elsewhere. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that a separate study recently found that excessive screen time usage in adolescents was associated with development of acute onset esotropia, or crossing of the eyes, and that limiting usage of gadgets decreased the degree of eye crossing in these patients.
Eyes, just like any other muscle, require a varied workout to remain healthy. Many vision experts recommend the 20-20-20 rule. According to this rule, for every 20 minutes of looking at a screen, a person should look away at an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds or more. This will help eye muscles to relax. The group All About Vision says to use proper lighting, such as ambient lighting. Position a computer monitor so that windows or lights are to the sides instead of in front or behind it. Be sure indoor light isn’t too bright, as bright light can contribute to glare and fatigue.
Antireflective lenses on eyeglasses or filters for screens also can help absorb some of the blue light and limit how much reaches the retina and accesses the central nerve of the eye. This may alleviate digital eye strain as well. Screen users may want to adjust the display of their devices so they feature a cool, gray tone, which produces less glare. Eyes can be adversely affected by screen time unless strategies are implemented to limit strain and to rest muscles.