Screen Time Worse for Eyes, Overall Health than Ink-on-Paper recently released an article centering on the issue of screen light and its potential negative health effects. From working at a computer to socializing, playing games, paying bills, taking notes in class, doing homework, reading books, watching TV, and texting, we are all spending an increasing amount of our lives looking at screens. But at what cost to our health?
To start with, screen time is very hard on our eyes, the article notes. More and more people who use screens for at least four hours a day are experiencing symptoms that include eyestrain, tired eyes, irritation, redness, blurred vision, and double vision, collectively referred to as computer vision syndrome.
According to the article, reading on a screen is more demanding than reading printed material. Online reading requires frequent saccadic eye movements (rapid movements of the eyes that abruptly change the point of fixation) and continuous focusing, which are visually and physically fatiguing. We tend to blink less when looking at screens, meaning our eyes dry out more and dry eye disorders may be the result. Although not generally serious, they can result in more frequent eye infections and inflammation.
Use of light-emitting devices before bedtime can confuse our natural internal clocks, prolong the time it takes to fall asleep and suppress the level of the sleep-promoting hormone melatonin, the article continues. A Harvard Medical School study compared the effect of reading an iPad or a paperback before bedtime on 12 young adults). After five days, those using E-readers took longer to fall asleep, had a delay in their body clock, spent less time in ‘deep sleep,’ and had reduced alertness the following morning compared with the same people reading a book. When this is added to the fact that light from screens increases alertness, causing us to delay bedtime, significant disturbances in sleep patterns and daytime functioning can result.
Watching TV and playing video games are associated with a significant increase in blood pressure. In contrast, each hour spent reading is associated with a decrease.
Too much screen time has also been linked to obesity, behavioral problems in children, poor parent-child interactions, and low academic performance, although the wider home environment is also critical, the report points out. Extensive use of digital media limits face-to-face interactions that teach children to understand nonverbal emotional cues like facial expression and voice tone which are important to personal, social, and academic outcomes. Preteens, who spent five days at an outdoor camp without screen-based media, increased their opportunities for face-to-face socialization and significantly improved their understanding of nonverbal emotional cues compared with preteens who retained their usual media practices(x).
All in all, too much screen time, especially before bedtime, can take a toll on our health and well-being, the report concludes.