Screen Time

Do your Job Safety Analysis (JSA) or Job Hazard Analysis (JHA) evaluate the risks associated with too much screen time, AKA, long hours working on a computer? Evaluating and mitigating the hazards of too much screen time is particularly important for home based workers.

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Meaning of “Screen Time”

“Screen time” is a term used for activities done in front of a screen, such as watching TV, working on a computer, or playing video games.  Screen time is a sedentary activity which means that you are being physically inactive while sitting down. 

Screen time in a digital age

The average office worker spends 1,700 hours per year in front of a computer screen, and that was before many of us began working from home.  If you add that time to cell phones and other digital devices there is a risk of unhealthy eyes. 

Why is too much screen time bad for your eyes?

When looking at a screen for extended periods of time, it has been shown to reduce a person’s blink rate by a third to a half.  “According to  Esen Akpek, professor of ophthalmology at Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins Medicine and an expert in dry eye, not only does prolonged gazing — such as that which occurs when reading on a computer screen — dry the eyes, it also starts a vicious cycle. “When your eyes become dry, that reduces reading speed, which further increases exposure time and worsens dryness,” says Akpek, “and this can ultimately lead to inflammation of the eye surface and a self-perpetuating chronic dry eye.”  Despite the lack of evidence that too much screen time affects long term eye symptoms, there is evidence that screen time leads to dry and strained eyes. 

Do blue light blocking glasses help with eye strain?

Recent studies have suggested that blue light glasses do not improve symptoms of digital eye strain.  The American Academy of Ophthalmology does not recommend blue light blocking glasses due to the lack of evidence that blue light is damaging to the eyes.

Guidelines for limiting “Screen Time”

  • Take frequent breaks while using digital devices. Use the 20/20/20 rule: For every 20 minutes of usage, look away for 20 seconds and focus on something 20 feet away.
  • Use artificial tears or lubricant drops to relieve symptoms of dryness.
  • Reduce overhead lighting to minimize screen glare.
  • Keep your eyes an arm's distance away from the screen.
  • Increase the text size on devices to see screen content more easily.

Although using a computer will not harm your eyes, staring at a computer screen all day will contribute to eyestrain or tired eyes. Adjust lighting so that it does not create a glare or harsh reflection on the screen.

Screen time for Children

Safe amounts of screen time vary by age.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no digital media use in children younger than 18 to 24 months.  The best way to protect children’s eyes and vision is to help form goof habits.  Follow the guidelines listed above that apply to both children and adults.

Myopia (Nearsightedness)

The number of people that have developed nearsightedness, myopia, in the United States has nearly doubled since 1971.  Ophthalmology, the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, attributes this to near work activities.  This is not just screens but also books and the time spend indoors that have affected eye development.

During preparation of a Health and Safety Plan (HASP), a Job Hazard Analysis (JHA), an Activity Hazard Analysis (AHA), or a Job Safety Analysis (JSA), JSABuilder is a web-based tool that can be used to evaluate hazards and reduce risks to office workers as well as workers in the field, shop, or other work areas.

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