Is this fact or fiction? Most of us grew up with our parents telling us we can’t watch too much television because it’s bad for our eyes. Is this true? Or was this just another one of the convenient things that parents told us in order to designate our time?
This might come as a surprise to most people but the idea that too much television is bad for you is mostly fiction. I say mostly for two reasons.
Firstly, most experts agree that too much television won’t cause permanent damage, but potentially has short term side effects. This could be in the form of eyestrain, usually caused by focusing your eyes on one thing for too long. The potential of eyestrain is also aggravated by sitting close to the television with your neck craning upward, a pose familiar of most children in the average household.
Secondly, once upon a time, watching too much television was very bad for you, but not in the way we think it would’ve been. In the 1960’s when television became more accessible to the average middle class family, they were very popular! Televisions were almost nothing like we know them today, rather than our small compact flat screens; televisions were big and bulky, made of tubes and bulbs. As a result of the high demand for televisions a manufacturing error was bound to creep in, and as was disclosed by General Electric Company in the late 60’s, many of their color televisions were emitting excessive X-rays. Over exposure to x-rays can be particularly dangerous and Public Health Service officials estimated that the radiation from the tube was 10 to 100 000 times the rate considered safe. To solve the problem, General Electric quickly began shielding the tubes inside the television with leaded glass; however the mental picture had already clearly been formed of a child sitting too close to the television ‘absorbing’ harmful X-rays.
The other very popular idea is that watching television in the dark is more harmful. According to a study conducted by the Lighting Research Center (LRC), part of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, they could only deduce that watching television in a dark room was only slightly more impactful than in a lit up room. In their study, volunteers watched an hour of a movie in a light room, followed by watching an hour of television in a dark room. During both viewings, volunteers blinking, neural responses and other stimuli were monitored, with a comparative analysis being completed after the test was complete. Although there was less eyestrain and visual fatigue when the volunteers watched the movie in the light room, statistically the findings were not significantly different. Researchers did note the difference, however small, as supporting the concept of limiting luminance ratios between a visual task and its surrounds.
According to Dr. Christopher Starr, an associate professor of ophthalmology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, “Some of us are using these things (different screens) for up to nine hours a day. Your eye muscles have to focus at that near range and that can be fatiguing. ” Eye strain from high numbers of screen time can result in eye irritation, dryness, fatigue or blurred vision. Although none of these are known to be ongoing affects, it is worth noting even the short term impact on your eyes.