Digital eye strain FAQs

How much time do spend on your phone or computer each day? Do you use it to check social media, respond to emails, check public transport timetables, listen to music, play games, watch videos?

It may be adding up to more than you'd expect, especially if you're carting around multiple devices in your reusable bag or backpack. It may also be attributing to the dry or irritated feeling in your eyes, called digital eye strain. Let's take a look at what we should be watching out for. 

How much time are we spending glued to our screens?

A recent Medibank survey has come out with the startling statistic that Australians are spending on average more time staring at screens than we do sleeping each day. The findings showed than respondents were spending about nine and a half hours a day looking at screens, whether they be smartphone, TV, computer/tablet or video games. Another study by UK company O2 suggests that smartphone users are spending more quality time with their mobile device than they are with their partners. 

What are the effects of too much screen time?

You may be familiar with the effects yourself, if you spend a lot of time looking at a computer for work. The collection of symptoms such as irritated eyes, fuzzy vision, headaches and neck and shoulder pain fall under the umbrella of digital eye strain.

The Vision Council of America defines digital eye strain as discomfort after a continuous two hours of screen use. This is due in part to our reduced blink rate when staring at mid- to close-range displays, meaning our eyes tend to dry up more. Research has also linked the blue UV light emitted by our screens as causing digital eye strain more so than other wavelengths. 

How can I lessen the impact of my screen time?

If you feel like you're spending a lot of time relying on your smartphone, try the Moment app which tracks your phone usage throughout the day, including the number of times you 'pick up' your phone to check something. 

For those whose work is mainly based at a computer, research suggests that well timed breaks can help to soothe strained eyes. The 20/20 rule is one way to do this: Simply focus your eyes on a distant point away from your screen for 20 seconds every 20 minutes.

Combine this with a break each hour to get the circulation working in your legs again, and you can get a coffee, go fill up your water bottle, or take your sandwich away from your desk in its reusable sandwich wrap

Instead of heading straight for the TV when you get home, try some variation by picking up a book (if you use an e-reader try to use ones with an e-Ink rather than LCD display). You could even rope your loved ones or housemates into getting involved with a board game. Anything goes!