5 Most Common Effects of Screen Time
These days, it’s not unusual for people to stare at digital devices for up to seven hours each day. And the pains and strains from staring at phones, tablets, computers and other digital devices are beginning to take a toll. Screen time puts stress on our eyes and our bodies – so much so, there’s even a name for it: Computer Vision Syndrome.
Computer vision syndrome is a repetitive stress injury that encompasses a range of eye and vision conditions caused by screen time. While your eyes are the most affected by computer vision syndrome, digital eyestrain can impact your whole health.
Here are the five most common effects of screen time:
1. Blurred Vision
Digital type is made up of pixels with blurred edges that require our brains and eyes to focus harder in order to see sharpness and repetitive focusing near and far can cause blurred or double vision.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule to give your eyes a break. It’s simple and easy, too: every 20 minutes, look at something other than a screen (a wall, out a window) 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Certain guidelines exist, mainly for children, that recommend absolutely no screen time if under the age of 2, and no more than 2 hours a day, if over the age of 2. Adults? Well, that’s why there’s a 20-20-20 rule.
2. Dry and Red Eyes
If you feel your eyes getting dry, the first thing you should do is blink. It may sound silly, but it’s easy to forget to blink when you’ve been staring at a screen for a long period of time. People blink a fourth as frequently when looking at screens, so the need for conscious blinking is real.
3. Burning and Itching
Burning and itching can also arise when you’re focusing so hard you forget to blink.
In addition to blinking, adjusting your monitor to help ease the effort of focusing on your eyes can help. Increase the brightness (much like going outside on a bright, sunny day, pupils constrict and your focus sharpens when looking at bright light) and make sure you’re using a high-resolution display for sharper type and crisper images.
4. Chronic Headaches
Whether working at a monitor or scrolling on a handheld, make sure the screen is about four or five inches below eye level. Furthermore, the screen should be the brightest “light” around – other sources can create glare and shadows that increase eyestrain.
5. Neck and Shoulder Pain
Keeping your screen a few inches below eye level will help here too and sitting up straight and working on your posture is always recommended. Moreover, you can apply the 20-20-20 rule to your body too: Every 20 minutes, get up and walk 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Throw in a stretch or two for good measure.
Looking down too often at devices and screens can also result in something called text neck. Text neck can range from a dull ache or soreness to very severe and painful muscle spasms in the upper back and neck area. Some patients experience a limited range of motion and major knots in their shoulders. Chiropractors like Mindy Cramer, DC, CCEP, FACO, typically prescribe a combination of massage therapy, therapeutic exercise and adjustments to ease pain and improve habits.
Eye Health for the Everyday
In addition to the tips outlined above, general attention to eye health can provide significant support. Vitamin A, B-complex, C, E and zinc are good for your eyes and can reduce the impact of screen time. Similarly, an annual eye exam – whether you wear glasses or not – can help you get ahead of any long-term effects. Be sure to mention the number of hours you spend looking at digital screens. Your eye doctor may even prescribe computer glasses that can help as well.