bg
Info centre > General Eyecare
Seven tips for screen time & device usage

The widespread coronavirus pandemic is a landmark event in the entire history of the modern world. The unrelenting pace of the disease, leading to governments imposing stringent social distancing measures to combat its spread, has virtually changed the face of human interaction.

Due to worldwide lockdown protocols, the restrictions at home and in the workplace will lead to heavy and prolonged use of digital devices such as the television, computer, tablets and smartphones.

Here are 7 simple tips regarding your eyes to help you best to protect yourself and take better care for your eyes while using your devices

Screen protection

While glasses may not be needed specifically for distance or near activities, you may find that glasses prescribed specifically for digital screen use can be helpful.

This applies to younger individuals as well, and not just people with presbyopia. In fact, a very common problem amongst the large number of short-sighted individuals is that their distance glasses, whilst giving reasonably good distance vision, causes specific difficulty for near work. Thus, by making some slight adjustments to the distance prescription can go a long way in promoting comfort for screen use.

Spectacles specifically for use on the computer are a good choice even if you wear bifocals or progressive lenses. Bifocals and progressives are fine if you are up and about, but less so if you work on a computer for prolonged periods of time.

Special coatings like Anti-glare and Blue Protect on the lenses are also helpful to maximize comfort and vision. Anti-glare glasses help improve contrast with the digital screens by reducing the amount of light reflecting off the front and back surfaces of your lenses. Individuals who do not actually have any spectacle prescription may also find it more comfortable to be using a pair of anti-glare lenses and Blue Protection spectacles.

Proper lighting

Eye strain often is caused by excessively bright light, for example from sunlight through a window or from excessively bright interior lighting. Determining how much is too much is sometimes a matter of trial and error.

Ideally, computer screens should be positioned such that they are not near windows with sunlight streaming in, or with bright sunlight behind them causing discomfort as some computer screens are reflective.

Eliminate exterior light by using curtains or blinds. Fluorescent lighting can be reduced by using a reduced number of tubes. It is desirable to use softer “warm white” fluorescent lights rather than regular “cool white” fluorescent lighting, as these create a lot of glare.

Ergonomics

As surprising it may be, the positions of your computer screen, reference materials, and seating position all do matter.

Most people find it more comfortable to view a screen whilst looking slightly downward. The optimal position of the computer screen should be about 10 to 15 degrees below eye level, which is about 7 to 10 centimetres from the center of the screen and the screen should be 50 to 70 centimetres from your eyes.

Trial and error usually gives the optimal distance for ease of viewing and to avoid excessive head movements which can tire you out and sometimes result in a sore neck. If possible, reference materials can be placed at about the same eye level on a document stand.

Chair height settings should therefore take into consideration these requirements, as well as the need to allow the arm and wrist to rest comfortably for keyboard usage.

Display settings

Firstly, adjust the display settings of your computer which can help to keep your eyes comfortable.

Secondly, adjust the brightness of the display so it’s approximately the same as the brightness of your surroundings. This reduces wide variations in contrast between your surroundings and your screen, which make it more difficult for prolonged reading work.

Finally, adjust the text size and contrast, especially for long articles. Also, black print on a white background is the best combination to facilitate reading.

Rest and blink

To prevent eye strain, try to rest your eyes when using the computer for long periods. Rest your eyes for 15 minutes after about one or hours of continuous computer use simply by closing them. Closing the eyes allows your eyelids to bring a good layer of tears to moisten your cornea.

A good rule of thumb is to rest your eyes after every 20 minutes of computer viewing by looking into the distance for 20 seconds to allow your eyes a chance to refocus. Do this for about 10 times.

A good habit is to blink frequently. With prolonged screen time we often forget to blink, and so conscious effort is necessary. Blinking has a milking effect on the expression of oil from the eyelid glands into the tear film, which coats the cornea with a nice layer of tears.

Blinking during screen use is all the more important for contact lens users, where a healthy tear film is important to good vision, because blinking ensures that the lens is coated with a good tear layer.

Environmental Awareness

Air-conditioning decreases the ambient humidity, increasing the rate in which your tears evaporate, and puts you at a greater risk for dry eye problems. So, rather switch off that air-conditioner if possible.

Warmer temperatures also increase the rate of tear evaporation. If you do go out for a walk, cycler or run, make sure you put on a pair of protective spectacles or sunglasses. Apart from protecting your eyes from harmful UV rays, spectacles or sunglasses also protect your eyes from dust, insects and gusts of wind, which also dry out the eye surface.

Lubrication

There are many eye drop options which can be used for the symptomatic relief of dry eye symptoms. Regular use of these drops improves the tear film and thus the eye surface. Follow the guidelines of your eye care professional to know which eye drop is best suited for your eyes.

The simplest method of lubrication is in fact splashing some tap water onto your eyes when you wash your face. However, as you would soon realize, the relief is only temporary as water does not coat the eye surface very well and runs off quickly. After a short while, the eyes can become uncomfortable, irritated and scratchy as the front of the eye becomes exposed and dries again.