Technology is great. Today we can do more with our smart phone than we could with a whole room of computers 10 years ago. In our field, we’re seeing advances in optical scanning, new ways to correct vision and even wearable AR experiences. The more we learn, the better we make our lives.
There are 4.92 billion mobile users out there. On average we are spending 87 hours a month on a mobile — that’s 12% of our time!
Statistically speaking, you’re probably reading this article on a mobile! But can technology be harmful to our eyesight as well as a benefit?
No published research to date has proved that using technology or screens is harmful to your eye health.
That being said, there are a some tangential effects that you can suffer. Some people find that using a screen for a long time causes eye fatigue and eye strain.
Do computer screens damage your eyes?
No. They are like TVs and they don’t damage your eyes either. But what you may find is that you’re getting dry eyes or eye strain.
This is because we’ve gotten into the habit of blinking less when staring at static objects like screens.
On average, we blink between 10 and 20 times a minute. It takes one tenth of a second to blink, but we do it so much that we technically spend 10% of our waking lives in the dark!
This is how important blinking is to our eye health. But when we focus, we blink less.
We’ve gotten into the habit of focusing on technology, which causes us to blink up to 60% less. This is what leads to eye strain.
But it isn’t just screens that do this. Any activity that requires focus, such as driving, listening to podcasts or attending a lecture can cause you to blink less.
When you’re working with a screen or focusing on something, take the time to blink regularly and rest your eyes. This will keep your eyes lubricated and comfortable.
How does blue light affect your eyes?
Over 50% of smartphone users grab their phone immediately after waking up.
It’s pretty clear that our use of computer screens and smartphones means our exposure to blue-violet light is on the increase.
This cumulative and constant exposure to blue-violet light accumulates over time and has the potential to cause damage to retinal cells.
Over time, this slowly leads to retinal cell death and can in turn lead to AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration).
But not all blue light is bad. The blue-turquoise light range is essential to our vision, the function of our pupillary reflex, and in general to human health.
Blue light also helps to regulate our Circadian sleep/wake cycle. Inadequate light exposure means inadequate blue-turquoise light, which can throw off our Circadian biological clock and our sleep/wake cycle.
Brightness and “night modes”
Some apps, such as YouTube, Audible and Twitter feature “night” or “dark” modes. These features lower the background brightness and change whites to blacks.
The benefit of these modes is that they help reduce night time light exposure.
Night time exposure to light reduces your melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone secreted by the pineal gland and helps control your sleep cycle.
So if you have your phone in bed, reduce its brightness and enable “night mode” to get a better night’s sleep.
How does VR affect our vision?
More than 12 million VR headsets were sold in 2017 and the combined AR & VR market is worth $216bn.
There is no doubt that virtual and augmented reality experiences are on the increase.
And it’s not just games. People are exploring the potential of AR and VR in a huge number of markets, including advertising.
VR headsets contain two small LCD monitors, each projected at one eye, creating a stereoscopic effect which gives users the illusion of depth.
While VR has been around since the early ’90s, there haven’t been any long-term studies into the effect of using VR on our vision.
We do know that using VR for a long time will have the same effect as prolonged use of screens.
People also experience dizziness and motion sickness when using VR.
This is because when you view an image involving motion, it triggers the brain into thinking you’re moving. This makes you dizzy.
When your inner ear tells the brain you aren’t moving, despite what your eyes are telling you, your brain comes to one conclusion: you must be poisoned!
That’s why you feel motion sickness. Your body is tricked into thinking you’re poisoned and tries to expel the “poison” by making you sick.
As technology advances, we need to make sure that our bodies aren’t exposed to harmful effects.
Studying the effect of technology on our eyes is vital to understanding the potential risks and finding ways for us to enjoy new technology safely.