How to Keep Computer Screens From Destroying Your Eyes

It's so hard to look away. But you really should, at least occasionally. And "remind yourself to blink." 

Do you look like this right now?

computereyes.jpg(Vision Council)

If you don't, the Vision Council wants you to know that you're doing it wrong.

Sure, long days spent in front of your computer might make perfect posture difficult to maintain (and our office, at least, has an unofficial policy against wearing plaid shorts, even on Casual Fridays). But a blasé attitude toward "eye-gonomics" while you're doing all of your little computing work could be the reason you're experiencing eye strain, neck and shoulder pain, dry eyes, or blurred vision.

And there's a case to be made for glare-reducing computer glasses being kind of badass. Maybe.

piecharteyesbug.jpgHours Spent on Digital Media Devices for Work-Related Reasons (Vision Council)

Look at it this way: a study earlier this year from the American Academy of Optometry found that working for just two hours on a laptop caused a significant increase in eye pain and vision problems. So even though 70 percent of people surveyed by the Vision Council refused to admit that their screen time might be messing with their eyes, those of us who spend 8-plus hour workdays in front of computers, or who catch up on our reading on tablets, or who are constantly checking our email on smartphones, have got to be feeling the strain.

The first step is admitting that you have a problem (a #firstworldproblem, if you'd like, but a problem nonetheless). From there, experts recommend some easy ways to protect your eyes during media binges:

  • Reduce glare by cleaning your screen and making sure it's the most brightly glowing thing in the room. Try not to use your smartphone in direct sunlight. Also, grey backgrounds are easier on your eyes than white.
  • Sit an arm's length away from your computer screen. They recommend the "high-five test": if you can't properly high-five your computer screen (full arm extension is key, people!), you're sitting too close. The screen shouldn't be tilted, and should be positioned right below eye level.
  • "Remind yourself to blink." Screens have a way of making you forget to do that.
  • Take what they call a "20-20-20 break": Every 20 minutes, give yourself 20 seconds to check out what's going on 20 feet away from you.
  • Consider buying a pair of glasses made specifically for computer use. If you think you can pull them off.

In no time at all, you can be like this iPhone user:

piecharteyesbug.jpg(Vision Council)

Comfortable yet sharply dressed, hair pulled back to avoid it getting in your eyes (but loosely, to prevent headaches), and always, always looking up before walking into traffic.

Presented by

Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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