We are all guilty of picking up our phone, telling ourselves we’ll just complete one task and then put it down, but finding ourselves trapped in the grip of our devices 20 minutes later. They’re a hub of information, communication, and entertainment that adds another dimension to our lives. But if you’re not careful, they can slow you down, become a distraction, and even lead to device addiction. This article will provide some tips to control device addiction for children and adults alike.
Around 89 percent of American households own a computer  and in 2021. 6.37bn people worldwide, 80.76 percent of the world population, own a smartphone . Smartphone device use in particular, can be as high as 8 hours a day on average . As these electronic devices have become such a staple in our everyday lives, scientists have started to investigate what kind of impact these screens are having on us. A common eye condition that results from using electronic devices inappropriately and for extended periods of time is digital eye strain (DES) or computer vision syndrome (CVS).
The symptoms of DES include ocular fatigue, headaches, dry eyes, and visual discomfort that come with it. These symptoms usually resolve themselves after time away from the screens or near work that brought them on, however, they are unpleasant nonetheless. Near work involves anything from computer work, to reading and writing, where your eyes are focused solely on something that is a small distance from your eyes.
There are, however, emerging global studies that have found a potential correlation between digital screen exposure and the development and worsening of myopia. In one instance, a study by Clayton Blehm et al. , found that in 20 percent of participants who worked a workday at a computer, they had transient myopia. Myopia (near-sightedness) is a type of visual impairment where near objects appear clear and far away objects appear blurry. Transient means that the symptoms are not permanent. However, the Copenhagen Child Cohort Eye Study also investigated the relationship between device screen time and myopia. There were 1443 young adults between the ages of 16 and 17 who participated, and their results indicated that children who had a screen time of above 6 hours per day were at double the risk of having myopia .
There are additional studies that suggest some of the reasons for this device addiction, as it has been deemed, could be due to fixational eye movements . This is specifically relevant for devices with smaller screens, like smartphones. Fixational eye movements are when the eye is fixed in one area for an extended period of time. This is unnatural for the human eye and places an additional strain on the muscles in the eye. The smaller the screen, the less your eye moves and the more fixational your eye movement.
While it might seem like an overwhelming task, to reprogram your device use behaviours, there are some simple changes you can make to control your device addiction.
Part of the joy and attraction of smartphones and tablets is their ability to perform hundreds of different jobs, all from one piece of technology. From calculators to control of other household electronics, our phones hold an arsenal of skills and use. The problem with this is that if you are opening your phone just to set an alarm or calculate a sum, you risk being distracted by other apps like social media or streaming services. If you can resist the temptation, then you’re a step ahead.
If these small moments of screen time that could be dragged out by distraction could be replaced with other tools, then why not give it a try and potentially save yourself time. Revert to the methods of years ago, and turn to a manual calculator, or invest in an egg timer (they come in all sorts of styles!) The same logic can be transferred to other areas where you know there is a screenless way to complete a simple task.
This change takes self-discipline in order to be effective, but if you can train yourself to claim control over your time and how you use it, it could be a great addition to your life. By setting allocated times during the day to check your emails, respond to messages, or watch tv shows, you are grounding yourself in the sea of endless media and tasks. Setting aside 8 am to 8.15 am to check emails and so forth, will help ensure you are doing what you need to.
If this sounds like a daunting task to hold yourself responsible for, there are apps that can assist you and your children. planoApp is an app that provides your child with eye break reminders when using a device, allows you as a parent to lock their device at any time, gives you the power to schedule device-free time and more. By encouraging these healthier device use behaviours in your children at a young age, not only are you protecting their eyes, but you are helping them to form a habit that they are more likely to carry on as adults.
 Camille Ryan. Computer and Internet Use in the United States: 2016 American Community Survey Reports. United States Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Commerce Economics and Statistics Administration. 2016.
 How Many People Have Smartphones Worldwide (Sept 2021) (bankmycell.com)
 V Rideout. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Kids Age Zero to Eight. San Francisco, CA: Common Sense Media. 2017.
 Clayton Blehm MD, Seema Vishnu MD, FRCS, Ashbala Khattak MD, Shrabanee Mitra MD, Richard W Yee MD. Computer Vision Syndrome: A Review. Survey of Ophthalmology. 2005.
 Mathias Hvidfelt Hansen, Poul Pedersen Laigaard, Else Marie Olsen, Anne Mette Skovgaard, Michael Larsen, Line Kessel, Inger Christine Munch.
 Sunu Wibirama, Hanung A Nugroho. Towards understanding addiction factors of mobile devices: An eye tracking study on effect of screen size. IEEE. 39th Annual International Conference of the IEEE. Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBC). 2017.
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