Do you have a screen addiction? Your eyes could be paying the price. According to the Ophthalmological Society of Ghana (OSG), 50 percent of teens admit that they feel addicted to their mobile device, and 27 percent of their parents admit they can’t put down their smartphone either.
You may not think that you spend too much time on your phone, but think about all the screens you view daily: smartphone, desktop computer, laptop, tablet, game system, and LED TV. Many of us spend more time looking at screens than sleeping. The average Ghanaian clocks several minutes of screen time (touted to be in the region of 7.4 hours). It’s easy to see that dependence on digital devices is a worldwide problem.
Over 50 percent of people who work in front of a computer screen experience a condition called digital eye strain. Common symptoms of digital eye strain include eye fatigue, dry eye, irritated or itchy eyes, red eyes, and headaches. These symptoms are thought to be caused by overexposure to high-energy visible light or “blue light” emitted by digital devices. Blue light has a wavelength of 380 nm to 500 nm, which means it is one of the shortest, highest-energy wavelengths that humans can perceive. These waves penetrate deep into the eyes and create a glaring effect, which results in irritation and strain.
Eye care specialists can treat the symptoms of digital eye strain, but there are no studies yet that can prove long-term damage. Some laboratory studies suggest that increased exposure to blue light can damage retinal tissue, but many researchers refute this assertion and claim that electronic devices emit only small amounts of energy. Interestingly, rates of nearsightedness have increased worldwide. Is this a coincidence, or could it be a direct result of our growing screen addiction? In the UK, for example, 16.4 percent of children are nearsighted today compared to only 7.2 percent in the 1960s.
Until we have more evidence from longitudinal studies, there will be more questions than answers regarding the specific effects of screens and blue light on our vision. In the meantime, perhaps a simple principle of moderation can lead to wisdom in how we use electronics in our careers, personal communication and hobbies