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Does staring at screens ruin your eyes?

Does Staring at Screens Ruin Your Eyes?

We've all grown up thinking that sitting too close to the television is damaging to our eyes ... but that might not be the case.

Technology spawns lots of confusion ... and a few affectionately titled old wives tales.

According to the Children's Hospital Los Angeles, close-sitters are fine. They're not hurting themselves in the least. The myth of sitting too close to the television likely spawned from some faulty GE television sets in the 1960s. With tube televisions, an electron gun draws the picture on the back of phosphorus coated glass, and vacuum tubes help support the electronics.

Unfortunately, it came to light that some GE television sets were emitting more X-rays through the vents in the front of the unit than they should. The units were recalled and fixed quickly, but the myth still exists.

Maybe it's pervasive because people watch TV in the dark? Turns out, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, that's not going to harm you either. Generations of humans used to do EVERYTHING by candlelight, firelight or moonlight. Bright rooms are a relatively recent invention, and though you can read or watch TV for longer, the real concern for close-sitters and dark-watchers is added eye strain.

Eye strain is a natural part of using your eyes a lot. While reading or watching TV your eyes are moving to take everything in and that causes them to tire out. Eye strain isn't damaging, but tired eyes DO need rest, so to avoid the weariness give them a break every 20 minutes and look at something far away. This goes for computers and smartphones too.

Seriously people, holding phones and laptops inches from your face is bad. Your eyes would like a break, please.

Many parents saw their kids sitting close to a television and then, when they ended up with glasses, made a false link without scientific testing. This happened to many kids, and since they likely needed glasses in the first place, they sat closer to the TV.

Join the discussion

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vicvlvic March 02 2014 at 10:37 PM

I think the reason for not sitting to close to old fashioned CRT type screens were the X-rays emitted from improperly shielded or adjusted sets.

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1 reply
custhasnone vicvlvic March 02 2014 at 11:11 PM

'Unfortunately, it came to light that some GE television sets were emitting more X-rays through the vents in the front of the unit than they should. The units were recalled and fixed quickly, but the myth still exists.'

Is there an echo in here?

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Bill March 02 2014 at 1:31 PM

Maybe the kids that sat close to the TV did so becuase they already had trouble seeing; Junior didn't need glasses due to sitting close, he sat close because he needed glasses.

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Tony Montana March 02 2014 at 2:28 PM

Watch people in a mall sometime. It's hilarious. They walk like zombies staring at the tiny things in their hands bumping into each other. They do it on the highways too, but not with humor. Growing traffic deaths because they are not paying attention to driving.

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Ken March 02 2014 at 3:45 PM

If it was true that for every hour sitting watching TV took 22 minutes off your life I would be dead by now.

I think that factoid needs a lot more research!

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1 reply
david.konen Ken March 02 2014 at 6:11 PM

OUCH! Thank you very much for this, Ken. If I were to factor HOW many times I've done this, I'd be surprised as to HOW I'm still living (when I should have DIED).

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rwilliamhoward March 02 2014 at 3:16 PM

This myth goes farther back than 1960. When we got our first set in '51 it was a 10-inch Admiral. (ch. # 30-A-1, if you're interested) The admonition at that time was "Stay back at least 10 feet except when changing channels." At ten feet, I could barely see movement on a light source (screen). 10 inch screens are really small!

The 'X-Rays' on the old color sets came from the high Voltage Regulator tube. (6BK4) It held the high-Voltage to 25,000. When it failed, the first symptom was picture 'blooming'. Turn up the brightness, and the picture got bigger. It was built much like an 'X-Ray' tube. Shielding improved, as did the construction of the tube.

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bocavert March 02 2014 at 4:05 PM

Within my lifetime every rule, law, belief or theory has been re-interpreted. Are we getting smarter or is the saying relevent that Americans are in a dumbing agenda? To understand that we did not eat beef before it was introduced into the wild west about 150 years ago, or that squirrel, pigeon, and any protein was derived where ever we as hunters, gathers, or opportunists could find it. What were forbidden foods actually were a staple depending on where we came from. Such as the myth about pork or shellfish. Like all descriptions just an authoritative admonishment forbidding an ignorant or illiterate person from a quantum leap into a unknown future. "Oh god" educate us about the fast food industry.

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nsheats March 02 2014 at 4:19 PM

That is the most off the wall explanation of a non problem that I have ever heard. this from a Certified Tech.

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wittlief March 02 2014 at 5:42 PM

bull kwrap
your parents told you not to sit in front of the TV
because you were being RUDE
and blocking their view!

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david.konen March 02 2014 at 6:08 PM

I can remember about 25 - 30 years ago, after I had gotten glasses (due to a problem with my eyes squinting), I didn't have TOO much of a problem sitting too close to a TV. I can believe in some of the generalizations which are made about NOT sitting too close to any TVs, because of any damage to one's eyes.

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wlh1923 March 02 2014 at 9:12 PM

Why we sat so close to the TV back then? Because there were no remotes and we didn't want to have to run across the room to change the dial. Practicality meant sitting close to the TV

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