We appreciate you reading this article, but for your eyes' sake you might consider taking a short break when you're finished.
That's because there's growing concern among health professionals that adults – not just kids – are getting too much screen time, causing eye strain and other ailments.
A number of recent studies suggest looking at screens for extended periods of time can even give rise to a queasy feeling. Taiwanese researchers found extended use of console video games is linked to motion sickness in adults.
“During exposure to console video games, there are differences in postural activity (movement of the head and torso) between participants who later experience motion sickness and those who do not, confirming a prediction of the postural instability theory of motion sickness,” the authors wrote.
In a trial, the researchers found motion sickness was reported by 67% of adults and by 56% of children who played video games for an extended period.
Cyriel Diels, a cognitive psychologist and researcher at the UK's Coventry University Center for Mobility and Transport, tells The New York Times that motion sickness is often brought on by being in “an unnatural environment,” created by the screen. Diels says it's a fundamental problem few have talked about – until now.
Verizon reports consumers' use of digital media has surged almost 50% since 2013, and many of those screens consumers stare at are very small. More than 75% of that growth is related to the use of mobile apps. In fact, Verizon says staring at smartphone and tablet screens now account for more than 60% of the time consumers spend on digital media.
In terms of time, Verizon says the average consumer spends five hours and 38 minutes each day viewing digital media. Last year, a threshold of sorts was crossed as U.S. adults spent more time on mobile devices than they did on PCs.
Besides motion sickness, Verizon warns about “digital eye strain.” You might be suffering from it if you have that uncomfortable feeling of dry, itchy or burning eyes and blurry vision.
What to do
Here are a few steps that can help you avoid it:
- Keep your screen a reasonable distance from your eyes. If you are in the classic pose of head bent forward and hands drawn up in front of your face, that's too close.
- Don’t forget to blink! Believe it or not, we tend to forget to blink when staring at a screen. Around 15-18 blinks per minute is normal. Blinking is important because it keeps our eyes hydrated.
- Control the brightness of your screen. Settings that are either too bright or not bright enough can hurt your eyes.
- Optimize your display settings. An adjustment in text size and contrast can make a big difference.
- Take a break every once in a while. Verizon suggests the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, take a break from your screen for 20 seconds, and focus on something 20 feet away from you. This relaxes the muscles that support your eyes.