Illustrated by Jihyang Lim


What You Should—And Shouldn’t—Worry About When It Comes To Digital Screens

Is it time to cut down on screen time?

Let’s face it: In today’s technology-driven world, we find ourselves constantly staring at screens. Whether we're glued to our desks for eight or more hours at the office, fall asleep religiously every night to Netflix streaming over our laptops, or grabbing our smartphone every few minutes to check out the latest on Instagram, a screen is never too far from sight. But is there any danger in this? 

There’s a common misconception that spending too much time in front of your computer screen could potentially cause premature aging—wrinkling, sagging, and other horrors galore. While squinting too hard trying to read a small font will still definitely cause wrinkles (so by all means, zoom in!), the screen itself isn’t the source of your crow’s feet.

In the past, cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors (think: what you had in early childhood) emitted UV rays that, yes, could cause skin damage the same way the sun would, although at much more mild levels. That was bad. The good news is that this isn’t an issue anymore, as today’s devices use LCD flat-panel screens which haven’t been found to emit any UV radiation at all.

Still, understandably, there are concerns about what prolonged exposure to digital screens can have on us. We can't help but wonder if there's something more than glazed-over eyes to worry about; so we turned to the experts for answers.

First and foremost, we’ve all felt the effects of digital eyestrain. After a long day at work or watching back-to-back episodes of Parks And Recreation, our vision may be slightly blurred, our eyes either feel dry or watery, and we may even suffer from a headache here and there. Why is this, exactly?

Marius Ohl, product manager for optical brand EyeBuyDirect, explained to me that today’s LCD screens emit blue light, which, in addition to causing digital eyestrain, has been noted in studies to have an influence on Advanced Macular Degeneration (AMD). In short, it’s making our eyes age faster.

According to Dr. Roy Rubinfeld, ophthalmologist and leading cornea specialist, this blue light may also affect our sleep cycle and interfere with normal bodily rhythms. “Blue light helps wake you up and helps set your body’s clock for the morning,” says Rubinfeld. “However, blue light near bedtime can signal your body and brain to wake up at the wrong time of day.” We’re all familiar with how cranky we can be after we don’t have a proper night’s sleep, but he warns that this can actually shift our body’s natural clock, which, in time, can actually lead to more serious effects, such as disrupting the way our organs function. If you find yourself unable to get a good night’s sleep after streaming that horror flick, it may not just be that it spooked you.  

So, how can we protect our eyes from this troublesome blue light? Ohl points out that many optical brands, such as EyeBuyDirect, are beginning to offer lenses that provide protection against digital screens. Eyezen, which is one of the options that EyeBuyDirect uses, is designed to not only relieve eyestrain but contains a selective blue light filter designed to block a portion of the harmful blue-violet light, while still allowing blue light spectrum to pass through.

Additionally, Rubinfeld points out that today, many operating systems (including Apple) have screen adjustments that allow you to shifting to warmer, less blue colors when needed, which can help lessen any damaging effects. This is especially ideal for nighttime, as it’ll lessen the impact on your sleep cycle.

Still, the best solution would be to simply take a break from screens regularly.  While it may seem impossible to not stare at a computer screen all day at work, the hours you aren’t at the office can be spent avoiding them. Hang out with friends or go for a run outdoors, and rather than falling asleep to Netflix, try falling asleep with a good book. Your eyes will thank you.