The revolutions in modern technology have turned everyone into digital junkies. So, just how much time are we spending on these devices, and how much are these screens impacting our vision?
A global survey carried out by Millward Brown found that the average person between the ages of 16-45 stares at a screen for 418 minutes every day. Most of that time is spent on the smartphone, which was estimated to take up about 147 minutes of time each day. TV came in second at 113 minutes, followed by the laptop at 108 minutes, and finally the tablet at 50 minutes.
While 418 minutes is the average, there is quite a range when looking at these numbers filtered by country. This test was taken in 30 countries around the world, with Italians spending the least amount of time by a screen (only 317 minutes), and Indonesians at the top of the list (at a whopping 540 minutes).
Whether you like it or not, screens are here to stay. Therefore, we really should know what eye doctors are finding out about how these screens affect our eyes. Unfortunately for us, the prevalence of screens in day-to-day lives is a first for humankind, so long-term data does not yet exist on this issue.
There is no hard evidence proving that "blue light," which is the visible light that comes from all screens, harms the retina. However, most scientists are in agreement that this "blue light" has negative effects on sleeping patterns if a person looks at a screen right before bed. Doctors say it is best for people to never use smartphones or tablets right before trying to sleep.
Another troubling phenomenon in recent times is the increased amount of children who are suffering from myopia (near-sightedness) in developed or developing countries.
Children in the UK and urban areas of Asia have been shown to have higher rates of myopia than children born in the 1960s. Many researchers believe this may be due to the fact that children are spending less time outside playing and far too much time inside focusing on screens. Researchers in Australia and the USA found that children who played outside every day had far better vision than children who played or read indoors.
Because so little is known about the effects of screens on a child's eyes, most eye doctors suggest keeping young children away from screens for as long as possible every day. Toddlers have never been exposed to smartphones ever in human history, and these screens may have a negative effect on a child's eye development. It is better to air on the side of caution and set strict limits for a child's exposure to screens.
For adults, the major eye problems from screens are mostly due to staring at the computer too long at work. The symptoms of this so-called "computer vision syndrome" include itchy, sore, or dry eyes. Researchers have found that if people look at least 20 feet away from their computer screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes, their eye muscles experience far less strain. This rule is, as you probably could have guessed, called the 20-20-20 rule.
Some other tips for reducing eye fatigue include making the computer's text as large as possible when reading, setting the brightness to a low level, and looking down on a screen by at least 45 degrees. But the most important tips include long breaks in-between computer sessions and taking long walks in nature whenever possible.