Increased Screen Time May Be Causing Eye Damage
Declines in physical activity and mental health are well-noted side effects of the pandemic, but there’s another consequence: eye damage. With the increase in remote learning and working at home, people of all ages are spending significantly more time in front of computer screens. Experts warn that reading on screens is more work for the eyes than reading a printed page, and the strain could cause lifetime damage.
A recent survey found that 44% of US children are using electronic devices for more than four hours a day, a rate that has more than doubled since the pandemic began. A study conducted in January of more than 120,000 elementary-school children in China found the rate of myopia, or nearsightedness, increased dramatically following pandemic-related school closures, with the rate among six-year-olds increasing more than four times the previous highest rate.
Myopia can be costly to correct, and if untreated, can lead to digital eye strain, a screen-related problem that causes blurred vision, dry eyes, and neck and shoulder pain. One study conducted in India found that half of all children taking online classes suffered from digital eye strain.
Zhong-Lin Lu, chief scientist, neurologist, and codirector of the NYU-ECNU Institute of Brain and Cognitive Science at NYU Shanghai, says children and adults can take steps to protect eyes from screen use. He advises following the 20-20-20 rule: looking at least 20 feet in the distance for 20 seconds for every 20 minutes spent on a screen. Whenever possible, take breaks from the computer to do tasks that don’t require close-up work for the eyes, and try to go outside. Research has shown that the full-spectral sunlight and rich spatial patterns in an outdoor environment are protective against myopia.
Lu, Z. (2021, April 9). Yes, all this screen time is hurting your eyes. Knowable Magazine. https://knowablemagazine.org/article/health-disease/2021/can-screen-time-hurt-eyes?