What Is Screen Time Doing to Your Eyes–and Your Psyche?


For those of us whose job involves looking at a computer all day, your life can feel like a never-ending series of screens. From looking at your computer at work to checking your phone during your free time to enjoying some T.V. when you collapse on the couch at home at the end of the day. You may have wondered what impact all this screen time is having on your eyes and your mind. Here’s what you should know and some ways to minimize the impact:

Too Much Blue Light When the Sun Goes Down

In addition to the ample blue light in sunlight, most of the light we are exposed to via digital devices is also blue. The only difference is that while the sun goes down, our exposure to blue light via our devices does not. 

This impacts our eyes in a few ways: 

  • It wreaks havoc on our circadian rhythms and causes difficulty in falling and staying asleep

  • Some studies have shown that extended exposure can damage the retina

  • Staring at a screen means we blink less which can cause the eyes to dry out.

What You Can Do:

  • Even if you don’t wear glasses, you may need to consider wearing some blue light blocking glasses 

  • Create a blue light curfew—when the sun goes down, so do your devices

  • Do some eye exercises like closing your eyes, changing your focus distance, and blinking.

“Text Neck” & the Muscular-Skeletal Impact on Your Body

Did you know there’s a phenomenon now called “text neck”? It’s the strain your neck gets put under when you look down at your phone (or any device). When you're looking straight ahead in a neutral position, about 10 to 12 pounds of pressure is exerted on the neck, but look down 15 degrees and that number jumps to 27 pounds; at a 60-degree angle, it's a whopping 60 pounds! 

Considering most us bend our necks between 20 and 45 degrees when we’re using our phones, that's a lot of undue stress on the neck muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, and spinal discs.

What You Can Do:

  • Hold your phone at eye level

  • Sit up straight with your head level, not bent forward

  • Take breaks and get up and move every 30 minutes (set a reminder/alarm)

  • Reduce your overall screen time 

  • Stretch out that nagging neck pain

  • Avoid propping your phone between your head and shoulder and use headphones instead

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and your elbows close to your body.

Does Too Much screen time Mess With Your Head?

Too much screen time overloads the sensory system, fractures your ability to focus, and depletes your mental reserves. Plus, screen time can bring up our worst fears, it can make you feel like your life isn’t interesting enough, you read things that make you fearful of the world, or perhaps you waste time when you could be productive. 

But worst of all, too much time with our devices can cause us to miss a chance for a more meaningful connection because we’re distracted with our phones.

What You Can Do:

  • Create a limit to your daily screen time or time on social media (there are, of course, apps for that!)

  • Increase the amount of time you spend outdoors, in nature, sunlight, and in greenery

  • Incorporate more movement, exercise and time doing a hobby

So, there you have it. And while these are all tips to reduce the negative impact of screen time, I also want to point out that screen time can also bring up great, positive moments, like:

  • Seeing people you haven’t seen in years and finding out what they’re up to

  • Being reminded about a memory you shared years ago that brings back joy

  • Connecting with people you’d never otherwise know

  • Reading different perspectives you wouldn’t otherwise know

  • Articles that pop up that are unexpected but life-changing.

So, the moral of the story is: enjoy your screen time, but in moderation and not at the expense of your physical or mental health.

Dan Madsen

Dr. Madsen is a family doctor in Chillicothe, Ohio.