“Near work” describes any work that requires the eyes to focus on an object placed near them. Any activity involving near work is thought to contribute to myopia, otherwise known as nearsightedness. Texting falls under this category, and is a contributing factor in the development of young people’s eyes. The term “screen sightedness” was recently coined to describe this phenomena, with research showing that there has been a 35% increase in the number of people with advancing myopia since smartphones launched in 1997.
How else does texting affect your eyes?
One of the most common drawbacks of staring at the small screen of a cell phone is eye strain. The eye struggles to read the pixels on screen, while also squinting to read the small type. Also, staring at the cell phone’s bright screen, even for a short period of time, tires the eyes, which causes what has come to be known as “digital eye strain.”
“Dry eye” can also result from excessive texting, causing a stinging or burning sensation in the eye from lack of moisture. A person’s blink rate (the number of times per minute that the eyelid automatically closes) slows when looking at an object close to their face. You don’t have the windshield wiper effect of the tears, resulting in less eye moisture, which keeps them sharp, glossy, and a generally more comfortable surface.
Texting keeps us connected with the world but also results in visual problems such as eye strain, fatigue and at its worst, chronic headaches.
Eye-friendly texting tips
• Look up from your phone every 20 minutes for 20 seconds, and focus on something at least 20 feet away for a couple minutes. This will allow your eye muscles to relax and blink more often, thus refreshing them with moisture.
• Hold your phone away from your face. The closer the object is that you are focusing on, the more your eyes have to work. People tend to hold smartphones considerably closer to their faces than they would a book or newspaper. Try using the “Harmon Distance,” which is the distance between your elbow and the knuckle of your index finger.
• Adjust the brightness and contrast of your screen. Adjust your phone’s screen settings to a point where you aren’t straining to read text messages, approximately the same as the brightness of your surrounding room or workstation.
• Display a larger text. Most cell phones have a setting to magnify onscreen text for those struggling to read smaller text types. Making the text larger can relieve eye strain caused by squinting. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort.
• Color temperature. This technical term describes the spectrum of visible light emitted by a color display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the color temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a color display for better long-term viewing comfort.
• Get a comprehensive eye exam. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), computer users should have an eye exam before they start working on a computer and once a year thereafter.