All That Screen Time Matters When It Comes to Eye Health (2023)

Anyone who's lost track of three hours while staring at their computer might be familiar with the feeling of peeling off eyes that've been plastered to a screen.

As it turns out, staring at our phones, tablets and laptops for too many hours a day is not good for our eyes. It can cause symptoms of digital eye strain, which stems from the hard work our eyes have to put in while navigating a screen.

According to the American Optometric Association, using phones, computers and other devices requires specific, but particularly demanding, "skills" of our eyes, including ocular mobility, coordinating moving from one position to the next;accommodation, the ability to switch focus from one distance to the next; and vergence, aiming the eyes toward the nose and away from the nose, depending on distance.

"Our eyes were not designed to use computers and digital devices, especially for long periods of time," Dr. Robert C. Layman, a past president of the AOA, said in an email.

"As a result, many people who spend long hours reading or working on screens experience eye discomfort and vision problems."

In the world we live in and with everything awesome that's available at our fingertips, it's probably not realistic to cut out screen time completely (though it can be done). So here's what to know about what being plastered to a screen can do to your eyes, and how to safely peel them away.

(Video) How heavy screen time affects eye health

Eye strain and blue light: What too much 'screening' does to your eyes

There's been a lot of debate about blue light, which we get in large doses from the sun, and in smaller amounts from our screens. Exposure to blue light signals to our bodies that it's time to feel awake, which is one reason using your phone before bed can be one of the biggest sleep disruptors, because it messes with our sleep-wake cycle.

While research does show that exposure to blue light over time from the sun can increase the risk of diseases that cause vision loss, including macular degeneration and cataracts, the risk hasn't yet been shown to carry over to the light that comes from our electronic devices, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. Research available tends to show damage to retinal cells at 3 microwatts or more, the AMDF says, compared to the typical 1 microwatt of light that comes through our screens.

Dr. Matt Starr, clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, said in an email that blue light, by itself, "does not cause permanent damage to the eyes."

Layman, however, said that overexposure to blue light can cause digital eye strain, which in some patients can lead to age-related vision problems.

Effects of blue light aside, eye strain is a common and uncomfortable problem. While it may be experienced "a little bit differently from person to person," it's a group of symptoms that come from staring at a screen for a long time, according to Starr.

"Common symptoms include blurry vision, foreign body sensation, itchiness, headaches and dry eye," he said.

(Video) Too much screen time may be damaging kids' eyesight

Interestingly, Layman says that screen time can also lead to a higher risk of infection in some cases, because we blink less when staring at a screen.

"Blinking helps create and spread tears across the cornea, which is what keeps your eyes hydrated," Layman said. "When the eyes don't have enough tears to rinse away foreign matter, they become more prone to infection."

All That Screen Time Matters When It Comes to Eye Health (2)

So do blue light glasses really work?

There really hasn't been a proven medical benefit yet. But there's no harm in seeing if they'll help you.

"While some patients report advantages of using blue light glasses when using computers, smartphones and tablets to prevent eye strain, the fact is, there is not enough science to support or deny their benefit at this time," Layman said.

Personally, I sometimes use a pair of blue light glasses when I'm feeling extra eye strain or I feel myself needing extra focus, and I usually find it slightly easier to pay attention to my computer screen. But I have no idea if it's actually helping my eyes feel less strained, or if it's just a placebo effect that helps me shift my perspective slightly. Starr confirmed it's maybe the latter by pointing out this study from the American Journal of Ophthalmology, which found no difference between people wearing placebo glasses and blue light glasses.

But because blue light glasses are so cheap (I bought mine online a couple years ago for under $15) they're worth a test run if you spend hours on end in front of a computer, just to see if it helps you at all. Prices start around $9 at places like Walmart or Amazon, or you can read our review of the best blue light glasses.

(Video) Managing screen time and eye health while working from home

Is using 'dark mode' better for your eyes?

One of the biggest cheers from the audience at the Google I/O event this year happened when the tech company announced Bard, Google's AI chatbot, is getting a dark mode. But is this really something to celebrate, eye health-wise?

It might depend on the brightness of the room you're using the screen in, according to Layman. He said "dark mode" might be better in a dimly lit, but not completely dark, room and that light mode (black text on a white page, aka "positive polarity") is better in a room with typical lighting. Layman pointed to this study from 2013, which found positive polarity allowed people to see details better.

Starr adds that using a dark mode, or turning on "night mode" on your phone, does have some benefit in how easy our eyes are able to adjust.

"The contrast and colors used in night mode reduce glare and is meant to help our eyes adjust more easily to surrounding light, leading to less eye strain and easier, comfortable reading," he said.

Similar to blue light glasses, you should try toying around with dark mode where it's available to see if it helps your eyes at all or makes them feel less strained.

The 6 Best Places to Buy Contact Lenses Online See at Cnet

(Video) What's all that screen time doing to your kids' eyes?

Can screen time make bad vision worse?

When I went to the optometrist last month for an eye exam, I asked my doctor this question and he said the research isn't there to give a causal answer one way. There may be a chicken-or-the-egg scenario at play.

For example, people who are nearsighted may sit closer to their screens and potentially expose themselves to more eye strain or blue light, but that might not actively cause a worse prescription, but rather be based instead on the fact they can't see well and have to scooch their face closer to the screen.

Starr had a similar explanation: "There are some studies that suggest near work activities, such as reading or using screens for hours and hours at a time may lead to an increase in nearsightedness, particularly among children whose eyes are still growing," he said.

According to information from the AAO on vision development, research has shown that children who spend an extra 40 minutes outdoors each day have a lower risk of getting myopia or severe myopia (a very strong prescription), compared to kids who spent more time indoors, either using computer devices or reading. The AAO adds that there's no direct link, but that having children spend more time outdoors (and less time inside staring at a screen) is good for their health.

Read more:Is Your Vision Getting Worse? It's Time for an Eye Exam

Tips for protecting your eyes from tech

Whether or not staring at a screen all day damages your eyesight permanently, there are some easy steps you can take to make them feel more comfortable.

  • Keep your phone "book-reading distance" from your face. This tip comes from Layman, who says it'll lessen the focusing demand on your eyes.
  • Make your font bigger. Another tip from Layman, upgrading your font size may also make for a more comfortable viewing experience.
  • Follow the 20/20/20 rule. Starr and Layman recommend that every 20 minutes, you take a 20-second break from your screen by looking 20 feet away. "Blink, close the eyes, and look 20 feet away during the break," Starr said.
  • When possible, use a pen and paper. (Even if you feel ridiculous.) This tip is not backed by science, but it's helpful to me (I'm very nearsighted and work in front of a computer all day). I use a physical notebook for a calendar because it's one small relief for my eyes, which are normally glued to my laptop. I also use pen and paper if I'm writing anything for fun, and to take notes.
  • Limit screens one or two hours before bed (and whenever else you can). This bedtime rule is a tip from Starr. Not only will limiting screen time before bed help your eyes, it may also help you feel less stress and detach from the duties of the day. Learn more about how to cut back on phone time.

Both Layman and Starr stressed the importance of eye exams, typically recommended at least every two years, but more often if you wear glasses or contacts, or if you're experiencing discomfort or pain in the eye region. Your optometrist or ophthalmologist will be able to prescribe medicated drops or find other causes for eye discomfort beside screen time, in case you need it.

Read more: Take Instagram Off of Your Phone and Thank Me Later

(Video) Here's how screen time is impacting kids' vision in Metro Detroit

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.


Is screen time affecting your eye health? ›

Studies show that people of all ages blink far less often when concentrating on a screen, which in turn causes the eyes to dry out. A clear and stable tear film on the eye surface is essential for clear vision. This problem can be worse for children who may have to look up at a screen that's positioned for adult use.

How much screen time is recommended for eye health? ›

At least every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and view something 20 feet away. The AOA further recommends that users take a 15-minute break for every two hours they spend on their electronic devices.

What screen time is bad for your eyes? ›

Follow the 20:20:20 rule

It means your child should look away from their screen every 20 minutes, and look at something 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds. You should encourage your child to follow this rule as it will relax their eye muscles and help to reduce the risk of many symptoms of digital eye strain.

Can too much screen time mess up your vision? ›

Looking at a computer screen, or anyone object at the same distance, for too long, can cause the eye's focusing system to weaken, causing blurry vision. In addition to this, spending too long doing nearsighted activities, such as looking at a TV or computer, may increase a child's risk of developing myopia.

Do bright screens damage eyes? ›

Can Bright Light Damage Your Vision? In short, yes, staring at bright lights can damage your eyes. When the retina's light-sensing cells become over-stimulated from looking at a bright light, they release massive amounts of signaling chemicals, injuring the back of the eye as a result.

What can damage your eyesight? ›

Some of the most common causes that damage eyesight include:
  • Aging. As we age, our eyesight can deteriorate from macular degeneration, cataracts, and glaucoma. ...
  • UV Sunlight. ...
  • Excessive Use of Alcohol. ...
  • Too Much Screen Time. ...
  • Overuse of Eye Drops. ...
  • Contact Lenses. ...
  • Smoking. ...
  • Dry Eye.
May 14, 2020

How can I improve my eyesight with screen time? ›

Try to make it a habit to blink more often when looking at a monitor. Take eye breaks. Throughout the day, give your eyes a break by looking away from your monitor. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.

Is 20 hours screen time bad? ›

Excessive screen time has been shown to have negative effects on children and adolescents. It's been linked to psychological problems, such as higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as health issues like poor sleep and higher rates of obesity.

What screen time is too much? ›

What's a healthy amount of screen time for adults? Experts say adults should limit screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. Any time beyond that which you would typically spend on screens should instead be spent participating in physical activity.

Do blue light glasses help with eye strain? ›

A recent study suggested that blue light-blocking glasses do not improve symptoms of digital eye strain. The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend blue light-blocking glasses because of the lack of scientific evidence that blue light is damaging to the eyes.

Does screen time affect brain? ›

Screen time overloads the sensory system, fractures attention, and depletes mental reserves. Experts say that what's often behind explosive and aggressive behavior is poor focus. When attention suffers, so does the ability to process one's internal and external environment, so little demands become big ones.

Is Dark mode better for your eyes? ›

Dark mode doesn't directly reduce eye strain, but it can offer some relief. For example, in a dim setting, a bright screen has your eyes working harder. On the contrary, a dark screen in a brightly lit room will have the same effect. -Easier to read.

How do you get rid of blurry vision? ›

The treatment of your blurred vision will depend on the cause. It might include eye drops, laser surgery or medicines. If you have blurred vision, you may need to wear glasses or contact lenses.

Should you watch TV in the dark? ›

Lighting & Ambience

Watching TV in the dark should be avoided – trust us, you'll be able to watch your favourite festive films for longer! When the room is dark your pupils dilate, allowing light to penetrate your eyes more easily, causing pain and eye strain due to glare.

What are the 4 most common eye problems? ›

The leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.

What should you not do to your eyes? ›

20 Worst Things for Your Eyes
  • Not wearing sunglasses. ...
  • Tattooing your eyeball. ...
  • Being a picky eater. ...
  • Smoking. ...
  • Dangerous home remedies. ...
  • Mistaking glue or other substances for eyedrops. ...
  • Ignoring your existing health conditions. ...
  • Playing sports and games without protective eyewear.
Sep 25, 2020

What is the best exercise for tired eyes? ›

Rolling your eyes gently in one direction and then back again can help reduce tension and soreness in the muscles around and behind your eyes. You can do this three to five times in a row every hour to help relieve eye strain.

Can you reverse the effects of too much screen time? ›

Incorporate more movement, exercise and free play. While stress and screen time break down brain connectivity, exercise does the reverse — it builds connections and actually makes the brain bigger!

Is 7 hours of screen time bad for eyes? ›

Vision experts generally don't consider screens as a source of permanent vision damage, even if extended use can cause eye irritation. If you only look at screens for a few hours a day and don't experience any vision issues, you probably do not need to worry.

How can I restore my 20 20 vision naturally? ›

Keep reading to learn other ways you can improve your vision.
  1. Get enough key vitamins and minerals. ...
  2. Don't forget the carotenoids. ...
  3. Stay fit. ...
  4. Manage chronic conditions. ...
  5. Wear protective eyewear. ...
  6. That includes sunglasses. ...
  7. Follow the 20-20-20 rule. ...
  8. Quit smoking.
Dec 14, 2017

Which vitamin is good for eyes? ›

Vitamin A and vision make potent allies. Carrots contain lots of beta carotene and Vitamin A, which can contribute to your eyes' health and may provide a fantastic source of eye vitamins for macular degeneration and cataracts. Good sources of Vitamin A and rhodopsin are also abundant in carrots.

What food makes eyesight better? ›

5 best foods for eye health
  • Carrots. Carrots contain beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A. ...
  • Kale. Dark green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach and broccoli are rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which are present in high concentrations in the retina. ...
  • Red peppers. ...
  • Salmon. ...
  • Oysters.
Feb 1, 2022

What is the biggest problem caused by too much screen time? ›

Other studies have shown that excessive screen time may lead some teens to neglect responsibilities, use screens to deal with stress, and feel anxious without a device. Too much screen time may cause physical changes to your brain. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain that processes information.

What is the recommended screen time by age? ›

Yousuf said pediatricians generally recommend the following guidelines: Under 2 years old: Zero screen time, except for video chatting with family or friends. 2-5 years old: No more than one hour per day co-viewing with a parent or sibling. 5-17 years old: Generally no more than two hours per day, except for homework.

What are the positive effects of screen time? ›

Screen time can help children develop problem-solving, social, creative and communication skills. Ideas for using screen time for learning include taking photos, making videos, using online maps and teaching others to play games or apps.

How much screen time is too little? ›

How much screen time do you recommend? The American Academy of Pediatrics used to recommend less than two hours for ages 5 and up. Now they are moving away from giving specific hours, because the reality is that most kids spend far more than two hours a day on screens, and not all screen time is equal.

Is 11 hours of screen time a day bad? ›

There is no consensus on the safe amount of screen time for adults. Ideally, adults should limit their screen time similar to children and only use screens for about two hours a day. However, many adults spend up to 11 hours a day looking at a screen.

Is anti glare worth it? ›

Anti-reflective lenses are very worth it, especially if you deal with a lot of glare from digital or LED screens, as well as glare from oncoming headlights when driving at night on a road trip. They also help you see better, look better, and feel better than going without uncoated lenses.

Do computer glasses really work? ›

Short answer: probably not. Most computer glasses are designed to filter out blue light — high-energy light rays emitted from the display screens on your computer, tablet and phone.

What color glasses reduce eye strain? ›

Dark amber/copper/brown lenses are known for reducing eye strain and fatigue caused by bright light and glare. These colors also filter blue light and improve color contrast. Dark green and grey lenses are perfect colors for sunglasses because they reduce brightness while maintaining color contrast and clarity.

Can eyesight improve on its own? ›

We can't correct our vision without professional help, and there's no quick-and-easy fix for eyesight problems. But with tools such as good nutrition and diet, you can still help your eyesight naturally and on your own. As always, please discuss with your optician.

What foods brighten your eyes? ›

Eat 2 to 4 servings of raw fruit or vegetables per day, especially carrots, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, bell peppers, papaya, mangos, oranges and berries. Raw fruits and vegetable retain full antioxidant strength and the brighter the produce the better.

What causes poor eyesight? ›

Some of the most common causes of low vision include age-related macular degeneration, diabetes and glaucoma. Low vision may also result from cancer of the eye, albinism, brain injury or inherited disorders of the eye including retinitis pigmentosa.

Does screen time lower IQ? ›

Early data from a landmark National Institutes of Health (NIH) study that began in 2018 indicates that children who spent more than two hours a day on screen-time activities scored lower on language and thinking tests, and some children with more than seven hours a day of screen time experienced thinning of the brain's ...

Does screen time help ADHD? ›

The ADHD Connection

Electronics can send steady doses of dopamine – a neurotransmitter – straight to the brain's reward center. And the damage doesn't stop with an ADHD diagnosis. Ongoing screen overload can cause symptoms to get worse, and cause other problems as well.

What mental problems can screen time cause? ›

Some effects of screen time over usage are depression, anxiety and brain fog, as well as the inability to regulate consumption of media, cyberbullying/harassment and self-isolation. Regulation of screen time is vital to progressive mental health stability and recovery.

Is 5 hours screen time bad? ›

What's a healthy amount of screen time for adults? Experts say adults should limit screen time outside of work to less than two hours per day. Any time beyond that which you would typically spend on screens should instead be spent participating in physical activity.

Does blue light damage eyes? ›

(Retinal specialists treat conditions affecting the retina, a thin tissue at the back of the eye that is responsible for vision.) Many people ask whether blue light will increase their risk of age-related macular degeneration and blindness. The short answer to this common question is no.

Is 12 hour screen time bad? ›

Excessive screen time has been shown to have negative effects on children and adolescents. It's been linked to psychological problems, such as higher rates of depression and anxiety, as well as health issues like poor sleep and higher rates of obesity.

How much screen time by age? ›

Yousuf said pediatricians generally recommend the following guidelines: Under 2 years old: Zero screen time, except for video chatting with family or friends. 2-5 years old: No more than one hour per day co-viewing with a parent or sibling. 5-17 years old: Generally no more than two hours per day, except for homework.

Can phone light damage eyes? ›

Constant exposure to blue light over time could damage retinal cells and cause vision problems such as age-related macular degeneration. It can also contribute to cataracts, eye cancer and growths on the clear covering over the white part of the eye.

Is LED lights bad for your eyes? ›

Chronic exposure to LED lights can speed up the ageing of retinal tissue, leading to a decline in visual acuity and an increased risk of eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

Can LED lights cause blurred vision? ›

In studies of LED lighting, blue light exposure was shown to cause the pupils to constrict and lead to ocular deficiencies like blurry and double vision. It can also lead to temporary sensitivity to light for a healthy person and enhanced photophobia for an already-sensitive individual.


1. All that screen time could lead to eye problems for your child
(10 Tampa Bay)
2. Eye health & screen time for kids
(News4JAX The Local Station)
3. How more screen time is affecting kids eyes and vision
(KSAT 12)
4. Health Alert: How screen time affects your kids' eye health
(CBS 17)
5. Is screen time affecting your eye health?
(KPRC 2 Click2Houston)
6. Screen-time & Eye Health
(Columbia Asia Malaysia)


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