I remember being told by my parents that if I sat too close to the television, I would ruin my eyesight (not exactly true). I also remember having a television with only seven channels, so while I did watch a lot of television, it was still a limited viewing experience. While the same holds true that computer screens won’t damage our eyes, there are some differences we should consider, including the fact that digital devices demand near-vision viewing.
With today’s generation having access to any program at any time, a screen usually within arm’s reach at any time, and the ability to view multiple screens at the same time, it may be worth taking a closer look at the dangers of being too close to the screen for too long.
Extended screen time in front of a glowing monitor makes us blink less than we would if we were performing another near-vision task, such as reading a magazine or writing a letter, and that results in eye strain or fatigue. Symptoms of eye fatigue include sore, tired, burning or itchy eyes; watery or dry eyes; and blurred or double vision. Physical symptoms include headache, sore neck and sensitivity to light.
It makes sense that adults who spend their days in front of a computer (guilty!) are more prone to experiencing these symptoms. But, children today also spend a lot of time in front of a screen. Schools are increasingly using technology in the classroom, and after-school hours are spent playing computer games, using social media, texting, and yes, watching television. A recent report from The Vision Council found 64% of children and teens spend more than five hours a day looking at digital screens.
In addition to eye strain, the blue light that devices emit can disrupt sleep and has been linked to retinal damage, including age-related macular degeneration and cataracts. If links are found in adults, you have to wonder what damage will occur over the long term in this generation of eyes.
Joanne Van Zuidam | Editor-In-Chief