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Computer Screens and Eye Strain.

Right now, you’re looking at an electronic screen. Obvious, I know, but think about how much time you spend looking at an electronic screen every day. Computers, tablets, smart phones, TV’s… They’re everywhere and more and more people are spending more and more time looking at them.

At the same time people are getting closer and closer to the screens to read them. Back when we used to get our information from hard texts like newspapers (remember those?), the average viewing distance was roughly 40 centimeters, or a foot and a half.

Now, researchers are finding that even when the font size is similar to newspaper print, people are holding their electronic screens much closer (some less than 8 inches away).

This is troublesome for a few reasons. Sitting hunched over a computer screen or constantly looking down at a phone or tablet can lead to neck and back problems. Also, people tend to blink far less often when looking at a digital screen than they normally would, even when reading a book. That can lead to dry eyes or make existing eye issues worse.

Finally, digital screens tend to emit a lot of blue light. Blue light is one of the shortest wavelengths in the visible spectrum, and therefore one of the most energetic. Because of the way light behaves (ie: spreading out from its source), the closer you are to your screen, the more intense the light is.

While the amount and intensity of the light is much less than what you get outside, the combination of blinking less and prolonged exposure can quickly lead to eye strain and fatigue.


Luckily, there are a several easy ways to deal with these problems:

– Increase font distance between you and the screen. Hold phones and tablets as far away as you would a newspaper, and increase the font size so you can read easily. Also, holding them up will reduce the strain on your neck. For computers, sit far enough back that you can just touch your computer screen with the palm of your hand.


– Turn down the brightness on your screens and if at all possible position them so you aren’t getting glare from windows or lamps. Also try adjusting the background color to something other than white if you can.


– Train yourself to blink more often when looking at an electronic screen, that will help to keep your eyes from drying out.


– Take breaks! If you work in front of a computer you might be concerned about not being productive, but breaks can help keep you from straining your eyes or getting fatigued. It doesn’t have to be much, every 20 minutes or so take 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away to rest your eyes.


– Parents should limit the amount of time children are looking at electronic screens. It might damage their eyes and being sedentary has a whole host of health risks for kids.


Computers, TVs, tablets, and cell phones all have their places. The amount of information available today, and the speed at which we can access it is simply awesome in the truest sense of the word. Just be smart about how and how much you use your electronics.



  1. Hellmich, N (2014, January 25) Digital Device Use Leads To Eye Strain, Even In Kids
  2. Bababekova, Y (BS); Rosenfield, M (MCOptom, PhD, FAAO) ; Hue, J (BS); Huang, R (BA) (July, 2011) Font Size and Viewing Distance of Handheld Smart Phones