We all remember growing up to those words. “Don’t sit too close to the TV! Your eyes will go square!” or perhaps it was “Don’t sit too close, you’ll go short-sighted!”. It may not have always been the same exact words but the message was the same, sitting too close to the TV is bad for your eyes. But is there any merit to this? Does sitting too close to the TV damage our eyesight?
First things first, there has never actually been a reported case of anyone’s eyes going square from sitting too closely to the TV. Not a hard one to guess, but then why do parents tell their children this? The square eyed thing is basically their way of scaring children into watching less TV.
Many parents will also warn their children that if they sit too close to the TV then they’ll go short-sighted. This belief may have been spread by parents that have sent to their child to the optometrist to find that they need glasses. They hear that the child needs glasses, recalls how close they’ve been sitting to the TV, then concludes that it must be the cause of their sight issues. Is this actually the case?
People develop short sightedness because their eyes aren’t the right length. When light passes through the eyes lens it is then focuses on the retina. If the eye is the wrong length then the image doesn’t focus properly on the retina because it is either too far or too close to the lens, creating a blurry image. Sitting too close a TV doesn’t change your eyes length though. Sitting too close to the TV is not the cause but a symptom. Children who develop short-sightedness are likely to have trouble seeing the TV clearly. They then end up sitting closer to the TV, perhaps without even realising why! Eventually, they see an optometrist to find out they’re short-sighted. The parent concludes that it was because they were sitting too close and a myth is born.
So, do TV’s truly have a negative impact on our children’s health? Currently there is no evidence that watching a TV screen can cause any long-term eye damage. However, prolonged use, particularly in low light conditions can lead to eyestrain. This can cause discomfort, dry eyes, headaches, or blurred vision. When we watch TV or look at a computer monitor, the number of times we blink every minute drastically drops, our eyes are literally glued to the screen. This causes our eyes to dry out and cause the symptoms associated with eye strain.
There are some other health problems associated with watching too much TV. Children who spend too much time watching TV, spend less time outside exercising and more time snacking on junk food. This can lead to unhealthy weight gain. There has even been an associated observed between watching more than 4 hours of TV a day and an 80% increase in the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Like pretty much everything else, TVs should be used in moderation. Whilst they do provide good entertainment for our children, we mustn’t let the TV take over. Like other activities, TVs require supervision to make sure they’re being properly used.