Too much screen time could mean weary eyes
The facts behind technology use and your eyes
By Dominique Hlavac, Talon staff writer
This age of modern technology that everybody lives in could be referred to as ‘the information age’ or the ‘social networking era’, but has anyone heard ‘the red eye era’ or ‘the blurry eyed age’? Walking into Minnehaha Academy Director of Technology Merry Mattson’s office, I found the latter statement to be true. Gladly greeted with a smile, the first thing I noticed was the red and tired look in her eyes. For the sake of politeness, I didn’t ask her about it until she brought it up,
“My eyes are red all the time,” Mattson said, “which means I shouldn’t wear eye makeup.”
Like Mattson, numerous adults as well as teens spend a lot of time staring at a screen in their daily lives. Since technology is so readily available to modern students, it has the potential to be overused and aggravate eye problems.
“There are muscles inside our eyes that work just like auto-focus on a camera and when you’re looking out a window or outdoors,” said optometrist Sarah Jerome. “The muscles inside your eyes can relax but when you look at a computer screen, your eyes have to actually use those muscles a lot more to keep the image focused.”
With all the cell phones, iPods and personal electronics everybody uses every day, it’s no surprise that many teens suffer from eyestrain and don’t know it. According to the National Institution for Occupational Safety and Health (NOISH), more than 60 million Americans’ have eye-related problems due to computer usage.
As more and more technology is being incorporated into the classroom, students and teachers are being exposed to more screens for a longer amount of time. Does this put them more at risk to develop eye problems?
“I don’t think there’s any evidence that your eyes are more likely to become diseased, that you’re going to have eye health problems as a result of using this technology,” Jerome said, “but I think a lot of people are needing more help than they used to, to see these things and to maintain clear comfortable focus.”
When someone feels the affects of staring at a computer screen on their eyes, it is referred to as eyestrain. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), symptoms of eyestrain include sore or tired eyes, itching or burning sensations in the eyes, sensitivity to light, dry or watery eyes, headaches and difficulty focusing. There are many ways that they can minimize eyestrain.
One method is taking periodic breaks.
“There’s something called the 20-20-20 rule,” said Jerome. “We tell people after 20 minutes; take a 20 second break and look at something that’s 20 feet away. By doing that, you’re letting those focusing muscles inside the eye relax.”
Another way that eyestrain can be minimized if someone knows that they’re going to be staring at a computer screen for a long period of time, is adjusting the angle at which they are looking at the screen. If they look down at the screen, it minimizes stress on their neck as well as their eyes.
It may sound cliché, but good posture can also help reduce eyestrain.
Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, that you have a chair that supports your back and your arms are at a 90 degree angle.
“There’s so many more compelling things,” Mattson said. “It (technology) really is very seductive. It’s certainly a very interesting time to be involved with technology.”
While there are many kinds of technology at our fingertips, it doesn’t mean that we have to use it all the time, and when we do, we need to be careful that we aren’t overdoing it.