20/20 in 2020

How technology is affecting your vision

Aya Kasim, Editor-in-Chief

Increasingly and more than ever before–in our homes, classrooms, grocery stores, and doctor appointments–there is a phone, an ipad, a computer, or TV that demands our attention. Many aspects of our lives have become digital, but as much as electronic innovations allow for progress and change, to what extent do they alter our vision? Do our screens cause permanent damage? The answer, well, is a little blurry.

If you use electronics frequently or for long-periods of time, your blurred vision, irritated, red, and/or dry eyes may be the symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome–commonly known as Digital Eye Strain. 

The true culprit of these symptoms are not the screens themselves, but the blue light they emit. On the visible light spectrum, blue has the shortest wavelength and the highest energy, and thus causes the most damage. Much like staring into the sun or LED lighting, too much blue light kills the cells of our retinas. However, our screens do not cause quite the same blinding effect.

“Sometimes, [my eyes] feel like they are pulsating,” junior Garland Fisher said. “My eye twitches if I work for too long and my limbs need way more movement.”

With consumer products like phones, TVs, and computers, the maximum amount of light emitted is known to cause Digital Eye Strain, temporary and easily prevented discomfort, but it is not yet clear if permanent damage may also be had. While some optometrists say that electronics are not bright enough to burn our retinas like the sun, others say long exposure and repeated Digital Eye Strain can cause slight damage. 

“I would definitely say that throughout my life I have had amazing vision,” junior Ileana Morales said. “Every eye check-up was great, but after our first year of going virtual, I have noticed my eyesight being affected as well as straining on my eyes too.”

Digital Eye Strain is an issue for many students today–if not because of excessive leisure time spent on phones, then because of hours of online classes. A “normal” school day in last year’s standard consisted of paper-pencil learning, transition periods, and a physical classroom. Now, the only thing remote learners can cast their attention to is a computer and phone.

“I face a screen for at least 6 hours [a day], which is way more than I’m used to,” senior Justus Mendoza said. “I try to limit the amount of leisure activity I’m spending on screens. I used to spend all day in class without one and then go home to a screen to relax, but now everything is on a screen so I try to do things without them for leisure.”

To prevent Digital Eye Strain and the chance of any damage, optometrists recommend the following:

  1. The 20-20-20 rule. Take a break every 20 minutes for 20 seconds to look at something 20 feet away–through a window, maybe. Looking at something far away allows the eye to use a different type of focus and coordination. The 20-20-20 rule also reminds your eyes to blink. Humans blink an average of 15 times a minute, but that number decreases to a third of that amount when staring at a screen.
  2. Create an ideal environment. Another rule to follow is the 1-2-10 rule. Keep phones one foot away, computers two feet, and TVs  ten. Make sure you are around good lightning, and that you are looking slightly down at your screen rather than straight towards or up. Dim the brightness of your screen, reduce any glares, and wipe off any dust or fingerprints obstructing the view.
  3. Get blue light glasses. These glasses have lenses that block/filter out blue light and protect from glare.  

“I’ve been making sure that I lower the brightness on my computer,” senior Natalie Hickman said. “I also feel like I should take more frequent breaks throughout the day, but it’s hard to leave my desk when I have so much work to complete.”

Remote learning has made these precautions more necessary than before, not only for high school and college students, but for little children as well. Spending more time inside rather than out, being away from natural light, and not getting enough sleep is taxing on developing eyes. Optometrists worry that online classes may increase chances of myopia (nearsightedness) to an even higher rate than they are at now. In the last 30 years, the incidence rate of myopia has increased 66% and it is predicted that 5 billion people will be nearsighted by 2050.

“My little brother complains sometimes when his eyes start to burn,” senior Roxanna Mireles said. “We don’t take any precautions other than taking breaks here and there. “

From the work that we do to the beauty that we behold, our eyes do wonders. Taking care of our vision is vital to our livelihoods and though making healthy decisions and taking necessary precautions are great things to do for your sight, please remember that nothing beats visiting your optometrist. Make an appointment if anything seems amiss, because in 2020, nothing is as clear as it should be.