Mobile Devices Could be Bad for Your Eyes
I just found out that texting could be bad for my eyes. I say, so what? I need my cell phone. One good reason is that I want to know what’s going on with my young adult kids. I don’t call them because I know they won’t answer their smartphones. So, instead of leaving them voicemail messages, I send them texts. Nine times out of 10 I’ll get an instant response. It’s amazing how that works.
The Digital Strain
I can’t remember what it used to be like without cell phones. In fact, I can’t go anywhere without mine. According to the Pew Research Center, I’m part of a majority. Nearly 83 percent of adults in the United States own a cell phone, 42 percent of them own smartphones, and, nearly 25 percent of smartphone owners rely on them as their main source for accessing e-mail and the Internet. But, it turns out that there is a physical price to pay for our reliance on mobile devices.
According to a smartphone study in the July issue of Optometry and Vision Science, all this texting and Web browsing on smartphones is causing a strain – on our eyes.
Eyes In and Out of FocusDr. Mark Rosenfield, a professor at the SUNY State College of Optometry, says that people tend to hold their smartphones closer to their eyes to read texts or surf the Internet than if they were reading something in print. “The fact that people are holding the devices at close distances means that the eyes have to work that much harder to focus…The fact that their eyes are having to work harder means that people may get symptoms such as headaches and eyestrain.” Prolonged use can also cause dry eye and blurred vision.
A commonsense solution to avoiding eyestrain, according to the study, is to increase the font size on mobile devices, if you can figure out how. The study also suggests that eye doctors may need to test the vision of their patients at closer distances to determine if glasses are needed to minimize eyestrain symptoms. These both seem to be good solutions for a society that has become so dependent on digital communication.
Not an Age-Related Problem
I also find it interesting to note that the participants in Rosenfield’s study were all in their twenties! In fact, according to Pew research, an impressive percentage of smartphone users are under the age of 45. Here’s the breakdown:
- Age 18 to 24: 49%
- Age 25 to 34: 58%
- Age 35 to 44: 44%
At least aging eyes may not necessarily be the reason why I sometimes find it hard to read the text messages I get from my kids. I can certainly deal with a little eyestrain to stay connected. It’s far better than waiting for a phone call.
Be Smart about Eye Health
If you are an active mobile device user, or spend a lot of time on a computer (90 percent of computer users experience eye problems) here are some eye health tips for you:
- Take frequent breaks.
- Practice the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Blink more often. Normally, we blink 18 times in a minute, but tend to forget when gazing at a digital screen.
- Reduce glare on your computer screen.
- Position your computer screen so that your gaze is slightly downward.
- Get enough sleep to properly rest your eyes.
And, of course:
- Get outside and exercise
- Eat vitamin-rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and cold water fish
- Don’t smoke
- And be sure to get regular eye exams.
Visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology for more helpful tips and information on eye health.