Throughout your time in college, you’ll be spending hundreds, if not thousands of hours in front of digital screens. You’ll be paying attention to video lectures on your tablet, researching new materials for your essay on your laptop, and referencing emails from your study group on your smartphone.
These technologies have proven to be massively beneficial, connecting students with more resources than ever and improving the reach and potential of both students and faculty members. However, all this screen time can have a negative effect on your eye health if you aren’t careful. Fortunately, there are some strategies you can use to mitigate or even prevent these effects.
How Computer Vision Syndrome Works
First, it’s important to recognize how computer vision syndrome works. Computer vision syndrome, sometimes called digital eye strain, is a group of symptoms and health issues related to your eyes and vision. Because digital screens tend to be close to us and artificially lit, staring at a screen makes your eyes work harder. This prolonged, tense, unrelaxed state can cause physical symptoms like soreness or strain in the eyes, blurred vision, or dry eyes. Over time, it can even result in headaches, or peripheral symptoms like neck and shoulder pain.
There are several things that can make computer vision syndrome worse, such as the lighting in your environment; inadequate lighting paired with an abnormally bright screen can increase the strain placed on your eyes. Viewing screens too closely may also make the problem worse. If you aren’t wearing the proper corrective lenses or if you aren’t sitting with an appropriate posture, you might add strain to your neck, shoulders, and back as well.
Depending on your current circumstances, the effects of digital eye strain can begin developing with only a few hours of exposure. In other cases, it may take years for symptoms to develop.
How to Combat Digital Eye Strain
These strategies can help you fight back against digital eye strain, and continue using digital devices for your studies without worrying about your eye health.
- Adjust the lighting when you can. Whenever possible, adjust the lighting of both your screen and your surroundings to minimize the strain necessary for your eyes to see the screen clearly. That usually means ensuring bright and ample light in your environment and turning down the brightness of the screen. If possible, use screens with glare resistance as well.
- Take frequent breaks. It’s also important for you to take frequent breaks from staring at screens. Just as your muscles need breaks between sets when lifting weights, your eyes need breaks in the middle of long screen sessions. Once or twice an hour, walk away from your screen and stare into the distance, preferably outside, with your eyes unfocused for a few minutes. You should feel the tiny muscles around your eyes relaxing. This is good; do this regularly for the best effects.
- Wear the right corrective lenses. Wearing corrective lenses inappropriate for your prescription or not wearing corrective lenses when you need them can make digital eye strain worse, since your eyes will have to work harder. Make sure you wear them at all times, and consider purchasing lenses specially made for prolonged sessions with digital screens.
- Use screens at a safe distance. It’s common knowledge that staring at screens too close to your eyes can result in eye strain, but screens that are too far away can make your eyes work hard as well. Keep your screens at a comfortable distance while using them.
- Pay attention to your posture. When watching a movie or reading an online article, it’s easy to get comfortable and forget how you’re sitting. Slouching, allowing your head to lean to the side, and other improper postures can lead to head, neck, shoulder, and back pain, which are typically included as symptoms of computer vision syndrome.
- Blink more frequently. It’s also a good idea to blink frequently when staring at a screen. The bright artificial light of digital screens tricks us into blinking less frequently than we should, ultimately allowing our eyes to dry. If prolonged, this can lead to dry, itchy eyes long after you’re done for the night.
- Watch for the development of symptoms. Pay attention to your eyes, head, and neck. If you start noticing the symptoms of digital eye strain developing, you’ll know it’s time to get more serious about compensating for your screen habits.
Your eyes are two of the most important organs in your body, and it’s not worth jeopardizing their health so you can get a few more hours of screen time. Pay close attention to your digital habits, including both academic and personal activities, and take proactive action if you notice any symptoms beginning to manifest.