Nearsightedness and Digital Devices: A Possible Link


Myopia is also known as nearsightedness (the ability to see things close up, but not far away). Vision professionals estimate that over 41 percent of Americans have been diagnosed with this condition, up from 25 percent in the early 1970s. Why? Experts point to increased use of digital devices and decreased time spent outdoors as possible reasons.


Excessive use
The Vision Council studied daily use of digital devices, such as smartphones, tablets and video games, and discovered that in the U.S.:


  • 95 percent of adults spend at least two hours with their devices
  • nearly 30 percent of adults use their digital devices nine or more hours
  • 1 in 4 children uses electronic devices three or more hours
  • only 30 percent of parents surveyed expressed concern about the impact on their children’s vision

Vision problems
American Optometric Association studies reveal that 80 percent of children and 70 percent of adults who constantly use digital devices experience tired or burning eyes, headaches, neck pain, blurred or double vision, and problems focusing. These symptoms can result in vision problems. Unfortunately, children don’t realize that blurred vision or discomfort is unnatural, so they don’t think about telling their parents or teachers.

According to a New York Times article, vision experts are studying the surge in nearsightedness to find the cause. Generally, when people use digital devices, they tend to hold them close to their faces and focus on the screen for an extended period of time. Research indicates this may be a contributing factor, noting that people who are more educated suffer more from nearsightedness, probably because they read and study a lot.

Outdoor vs. indoor play
Studies also show that children, in particular, who spend time outdoors, are less likely to develop high myopia, described as vision that’s blurry beyond a distance of five inches. Scientists have not determined whether the eyes benefit from the sun’s ultraviolet light or from being outside and away from close-up work.

Nearsightedness occurs when the eye elongates, making it more egg-shaped than round. To improve long-range vision, eye doctors usually prescribe corrective eyeglasses or contact lenses.

Optometrists are exploring other treatment options, such as atropine drops and orthokeratology, with hopes of finding a solution that slows nearsightedness in children. Ultimately, vision experts advise parents concerned about their children’s vision to limit the amount of time kids spend with digital devices.