About safe screen use for eyes

Digital devices, from phones to tablets to laptops, are part of our everyday lives. Whether it’s for work or play, many of us end up staring at screens for long periods and worry about whether they can damage your eyes. Fortunately, there’s no evidence to show they cause harm. In fact, the ability to alter font size, brightness and contrast of the display can make reading text on screens more comfortable than on paper. That said, eye strain and fatigue caused by blue light can accompany prolonged screen use so it’s sensible to make a few adjustments to keep your eyes happy and healthy.

What is blue light?

Blue light is a high-energy light with short wavelengths, so called because it’s on the blue-violet band of the spectrum. It’s naturally present in sunlight but it’s also seen on screens like televisions, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and Visual Display Units (VDUs) like projectors. There’s no evidence to suggest that blue light damages your eyes but it can contribute to eye strain.

What is digital eye strain?

Eye strain occurs when you spend long periods using near vision, as you do when you read on a tablet or play games online. Digital eye strain doesn’t cause long term damage, but it can be uncomfortable. Symptoms include blurred vision, headaches, and sore, dry eyes.

How to keep your eyes safe when using screens:

  • Apply the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to give your eyes a break.
  • Blink regularly: when you focus on a screen you blink less, which makes your eyes dry and uncomfortable.
  • Position your computer: ensure your screen is 40 to 76cm from your eyes, that the top is level with or slightly below your eyes, and that there are no dazzling reflections (from a window, for example).
  • Adjust the font size on your screen so that it’s easy to read.
  • Adjust the character size so that it’s easy to see.
  • Arrange reading or reference materials in document holders near to the screen at the same distance from your eyes. This helps ensure that your eyes remain focused as they move between the screen and documents.

Screen time tips for parents

Most parents worry about the amount of time their child spends on digital devices and the long term effects that might have on their eyes. We’re parents too so we know the drill. Help them get the balance right and stay healthy with these positive eye health habits:

  • Get your child outside for two hours each day. Regular play and exercise can help prevent myopia (short-sightedness).
  • Use night settings, if possible, to help reduce the amount of blue light given off by the screen during the night, which will help your child sleep.
  • Switch off digital devices at least one hour before bedtime.
  • Book an eye exam for your child once every two years as a minimum, or more if recommended by your Cambridge optician.

Ask an Expert

We know how important it is to stay safe and comfortable around screens, be it for yourself or when monitoring screen use by your children. If you have any questions about how to keep your eyes healthy at work and home when using digital screens, please get in touch, our opticians are always happy to answer your questions.