Is Screen Time Ruining Your Vision?

How many hours a day do you think you spend looking at screens every day? Chances are you underestimate your use, and your eyes might be paying the price. Too much time looking at digital screens strains your eyes, and 50 to 90 percent of American adults are suffering the consequences.

If you want to protect yourself from screen-related eye strain, read on. This blog discusses why excessive screen time is a problem and what you can do about it.

The Problem Up Close

You won’t believe the hard numbers behind America’s screen time epidemic. Between smart devices, computers, and TVs, US adults spend an average of 11 hours on electronic gadgets every day.

The majority of that screen time goes to watching TV. TVs have been an American pastime since the 1950s, but hundreds of cable channels, DVRs, YouTube, and video-streaming services make it easier than ever to tune in.

One new way of viewing TV, binge watching, is becoming a cultural phenomenon. A Netflix-sponsored survey showed that 61% of US adults binge watch regularly. According to survey respondents, binge watching doesn’t mean watching entire seasons in one sitting, but watching at least two series episodes in a row. Either way, that’s a lot of screen time.

Smartphones and tablets are the next biggest offenders. That’s no surprise, considering you can do almost everything on them, from emailing your boss and reading the latest news to updating your social media status and snapping a selfie. An online survey from 2014 found that college-age women spend 10 or more hours per day on their phones.

Of course, some screen time is hard to avoid. If you work a desk job, you probably stare at one or two screens all day. Still, many people follow up mandatory screen time with voluntary time catching up with their Twitter feed and unlocking new levels on Candy Crush, which doesn’t help.

How Screen Time Affects Your Vision

Clearly, screen technology surrounds us. All those screens leave most of us vulnerable to a group of eye conditions called computer vision syndrome, or CVS. Anyone who looks at screens throughout the day can have symptoms of CVS. CVS occurs most often in people who gaze at screens for hours at a time.

CVS happens when your eyes experience strain. Looking at a screens causes eye strain because it forces your eyes to:

  • Focus and refocus continually
  • Repeat the same motions over and over
  • Constantly process the changing images they see
  • Blink less, which dries them out

Essentially, staring at screens makes your eyes perform high-intensity exercise. When you do it for hours, it’s like making them run a marathon, except that your eyes don’t build the same endurance as your running leg muscles.

Other factors can make CVS-related eye strain worse. The closer you sit to a screen, the more you intensify the eye strain. The older you are, the less flexible your eyes are, which means they have a harder time focusing. If you have another eye problem like astigmatism, your eyes become even more susceptible to CVS.

All this eye strain leads to annoying eye problems, such as:

  • Dry eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Blurred vision
  • Double vision
  • Headaches
  • Back or neck pain

So far eye doctors haven’t linked CVS to any long-term eye problems. Even so, you can avoid the annoying symptoms of CVS by reducing your screen time.

Ways to Reduce Screen Time

Are you ready to take a break from the digital world? Before you do, read the tips below so you can put yourself firmly on the road to success.

1. Track your digital media consumption.

Buy a notebook, and write down how much time you spend engaged with screens. Track this time by type of screen so you can pinpoint your problem areas.

If you prefer to move away from digital technology more gradually, download an app that tracks screen time. Several are available for iOS and Android platforms. Try an app like Checky-it counts how many times you look at your phone every day.

2. Make rules about electronics use.

If your current rule about screen time is “whatever, whenever,” try to set limits for yourself. Pick one of the following media rules, or make up one you think you’ll stick to:

  • Ban screen usage in a specific room, like the kitchen.
  • Make one day each week screen-free.
  • Give yourself a non-work screen time allowance in hours per day or week.
  • Only allow yourself to watch your favorite shows while you do something productive, like running on the treadmill.

3. Delete non-essential apps.

You know which apps draw your attention every time you check into your phone. Try deleting them from your phone for a week to see how that affects your screen habits. You might notice a difference in your screen time or even your overall happiness.

It’s go time. Start tracking your screen time today, and make an effort to cut it down. Your eyes will thank you!