The average American adult spends up to 12 hours per day looking at a screen. While smartphones, tablets, computers, and television screens have become a constant and often integral part of our lives, they are not without problems.
Screen time can have many negative effects on our health, mental and physical. In teens, studies have shown a correlation between rates of depression and time spent on their smartphones. In young children, an ongoing study from the National Institutes of Health(NIH), has shown that kids who spend two or more hours per day looking at screens, score lower on tests focused on thinking and language skills. And in adults, we are seeing ever-increasing rates of Computer Vision Syndrome(CVS), which describes the visual problems that result from prolonged computer, tablet, and cell phone use.
Unlike words printed on paper, electronic characters have slightly blurred edges, which makes it more difficult for our eyes to focus on them. This causes us to unconsciously attempt to rest our eyes by frequently shifting our focus to an area behind the screen— a constant back and forth motion that causes eye strain and fatigue.
Common symptoms of CVS include:
Neck and shoulder pain
These symptoms may be caused by:
Glare on a digital screen
Improper viewing distances
Poor seating posture
Uncorrected vision problem(s)
Prevention or reduction of the problems associated with Computer Vision Syndrome involves taking steps to control lighting and glare on the device screen, establishing proper working distances for screen viewing, and ensuring that any existing vision problems are properly corrected. We also recommend following the 20-20-20 rule— taking a 20-second break, to view something 20 feet away, for every 20 minutes of computer work or screen time.
Often times, glasses or contact lenses prescribed for general use are not adequate for computer work. Lenses designed to meet the unique visual demands of computer viewing may be needed. Special lens designs, lens powers or lens coatings may help to maximize visual abilities and comfort. Blue-blocker lenses, which filter out the high energy blue light that has been shown to increase eyestrain in some patients, are often a good option.
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