Screen Time and Its Effect On Your Eyes

computer screen eye strainThe number of people diagnosed with myopia (or near sightedness for us non-technical folks) has significantly increased from the 1970s. It seems there is a fairly simple correlation to be made, that is: screens!

In the 50s and 60s, and even into the 70s, families might have had one television in their home.  But, with the advent of the home computer in the 80s and the explosion of personal devices with screens in the past two decades…it seems like there may be a connection between staring at a little screen and needing a glasses prescription a little earlier than our parents and grandparents did.

So, what can we do? If you are like me—life without an iPhone, flat screen TV, and computer is just not realistic! But, we all want to preserve our vision as long as possible. Here are some tips I got from my own eye doctor.

Remember the 20-20-20 Rule

For every 20 minutes you are staring at a screen, take a 20 second break and look somewhere at least 20 feet away (outside if possible!)

Adjust Your Monitor

If your monitor isn’t adjustable, try to adjust your chair height so that your screen is just slightly lower than your eye level. Eyes focus together better if looking downwards rather than up.

Reading Glasses

Ask your optometrist about getting some reading glasses with slight magnification in them to use just when working at a screen for long periods of time.  You can put them on right over your contacts and ease the eye strain.


Yes, that’s right – blinking is something that most of us naturally do almost 20 times per minute, but when looking at a screen we only do 6-8 times per minute. So, blink intentionally to moisten those dry eyes!

Now, I know what you may be thinking.  These are great ideas but who remembers to stop and take a “look break” every 20 minutes?  You get focused. You get lost in your work and forget to give your eyes some time off. Well, never fear, now there are utilities you can put on your computer to help remind you. Check out WorkRave, EyeDefender (both for Windows) and Time Out for the Mac. Great programs to pop up and remind you it’s time to look away!

Eye strain is serious business.  If you haven’t had an eye exam recently make an appointment.  There’s a good chance that just in the past few years you’ve added a few more screens to your daily life (Hello new iPad, Kindle, or Droid?)–and your prescription may have even changed.

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