Mobile Devices Destroying Our Eyesight

from the see-what-now? dept

Last week, while traveling around Washington DC, someone asked me how I could possibly read the screen on the mobile device I was using. It never really seemed that difficult, but apparently I (and many others) are doing quite a bit of damage to our eyes. At least that's what a new article is claiming, saying that the nation's obsession with reading things on mobile devices is generating new levels of eye strain, going beyond the typical eye strain found by people who are simply staring at a computer screen all day. To blame, of course, is the tiny text combined with the quality of the screens. Apparently, doctors are finding that people are coming in and asking for prescription glasses just for the sake of reading email on their Blackberry devices. This isn't the first time, of course, that mobile devices have been called out for creating potential health problems. We've already heard too many stories about texter's thumb, for instance. However, the "good" news is that companies are working on ways to deal with this, by making the text more readable -- though, it still seems like we're far away from a real shift in how people view content on a small screen. A few years ago at the DEMO conference, there was a great demo from the company F-Origin showing a system that used motion sensors to let you view content on a mobile device screen as if it were simply a lens on a full-sized screen. It looked like a really powerful solution, that could help address this issue, but it's not clear that it's gone anywhere since then.


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    Frankie, May 2nd, 2006 @ 4:14am

    If you were waving your phone around constantly you might get a few funny looks.

     

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    Wayne, May 2nd, 2006 @ 5:20am

    I have no scientific evidence but I just find it hard to believe that our eyes are damaged by tiny text whether in a book, laptop screen, or a Blackberry. Peoples' ability to focus declines with age, particularly around age 40 which, coincidentally, is when they have had a number of years in front of such devices. In my case I had perfect vision until I stared at a computer all day for 18 years. I could also say, I had perfect vision until I reached age 40.

     

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      Posterlogo, May 2nd, 2006 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      "I have no scientific evidence but I just find it hard to believe that our eyes are damaged by tiny text whether in a book, laptop screen, or a Blackberry. Peoples' ability to focus declines with age, particularly around age 40 which, coincidentally, is when they have had a number of years in front of such devices. In my case I had perfect vision until I stared at a computer all day for 18 years. I could also say, I had perfect vision until I reached age 40."

      That is infact the concensus among optics proffesionals and academics and doctors. Those who read more fine print, such as that on small screens (or even small text on big screens), will effectively "train" their eyes to focus at that distance, and become essentially lazy. Could be mobiles, or books. That's what makes this headline nothing more than sensationalism at its finest. Bravo TechDirt. Another bit of tabloid mongering.

       

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    confusedwise man, May 2nd, 2006 @ 5:27am

    odd

    as I read this and post this from my mobile device...... Ill let you know how it works out in a few years

     

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    JBB, May 2nd, 2006 @ 5:36am

    *gasp*

    Oh no! People are asking for glasses so they can see things that may be smaller than they wanted to bother with before!

    Next you'll tell me that snipers are ruining their eyesight as evidenced by the fact that they want scopes on their rifles.

    And astronomers are in serious trouble -- they keep requesting these huge telescopes to see things that are further away -- incontrovertable evidence that astronomy ruins your eyes! Telescope sales prove it!

    The fact that people want glasses that allow them to read tiny text doesn't mean they're ruining their eyes. Perhaps it means that they're realizing that their eyes aren't as good as they used to be as they get older. Or they already knew that but didn't care because they didn't have any reason to bother correcting it.

     

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    txjump, May 2nd, 2006 @ 6:40am

    combine

    combine an ageing baby boomer population with high tech gadgets ... toss in a few 30 and 40 somethings ... and check out the sales on glasses.

    not to mention that all these adults give their kids and grandkids devices to stay in contact ... and business execs now "must stay in touch" ...

    is it really eye strain, or is it the fact that people actually have something they want to read outside of the office and home lighting conditions?

     

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    Searcher619, May 2nd, 2006 @ 6:41am

    You'll Go Blind!

    LOL!!! This remionds me of the BS parents tell their kids about watching too much TV. Where's the research to back this up? Non-existent I bet.

     

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    Louis, May 2nd, 2006 @ 7:15am

    I`m nearsighted, so I take OFF my glasses when I work in front of a PC or when reading SMS´s, since it´s less strain on my eyes.

    I`d actually prefer the text on my Pocket PC to be smaller. Then again, I work on a notebook with a 1900x1200 res.

     

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    SPR, May 2nd, 2006 @ 7:15am

    Eyesight

    How in the world does wanting to read microscopic text and needing reading glasses for that translate to mobile devices damaging eyesight? Perhaps these people need psychological counseling for needing to be that "connected"!!

     

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    me, May 2nd, 2006 @ 7:23am

    Eye Strain

    doesn't necessarily cause poor vision, it just makes your eyes tired and your head ache. Looking at small text is no more damaging to your eyes than listening to faint sounds wuld be damaging to your hearing.

    Whne your head starts to ache and your neck gets stiff from holding still for too long, take a break.

     

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    Laura, May 2nd, 2006 @ 7:31am

    It makes total sense

    There are two ways your eyes focus: One is your inherent optical structure -- the lens and its relationship with the retina. The other is your musculature that works to focus your eyes, and makes up for inherent deficiencies. Work those muscles a lot and you get "eye strain" and they cannot make up so much for the optics, and you have vision problems.

    That's why using these devices can cause this. Normally people need glasses as they get older. Eye strain like what's described is just bringing that need for glasses that might not come until one's 40s a whole lot earlier.

    (Learned from my optometrist. I could be wrong.)

    Of course, there's the aggravating factor of the EM signal baking microbubbles into your eyeballs, but we're not supposed to discuss that.

    Oh, and people don't tend to get it so much from tv because tv is very low resolution, so there's not much info to have to read closely. A 10yo 800x600 monitor has oodles more resolution.

     

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    Sam, May 2nd, 2006 @ 7:34am

    You actually will go blind

    It's a fact-- the eyes suffer from the strain of over-focusing on small objects. The evolutionary niche they were intended to fill has a lot to do with macrospic vision for survelliance over things like plains and savannas, not 1600x1200 resolutions, normal or hd tv, newspapers, books or even parchment.

    Near-sightedness, the inability to see things reasonably far away clearly, is an impairment that doesn't affect forty year olds nearly as much as it does the aggregate of society as they grow into young adulthood. The optical industry, as it sorts out new and better ways to make our eyes see more clearly, will tell you that as our society's moved toward mass literacy, eyesight on the whole has gotten poorer. Children from developing nations while endure eight hours of school a day with books, not em-radiating electronics. While the incidents of myopia are there, the frequency of it's occurence are much less.

    "While fewer than one per cent of the Inuit and Pacific islanders had myopia early in the last century, these rates have since skyrocketed to as high as 50 per cent. These "overnight epidemics" have usually been blamed on the increase in reading following the sudden advent of literacy and compulsory schooling in these societies."

    Starch and protein intakes may also be contributing factors in developing eyes.

    The constant strain on the eye diminishes its abilities. The more mobile tech proliferates, the less time we spend not looking at news papers or screens or anything of the like. Our eyes didn't evolve for this type of high-focus miliage. Just keep that in mind. With glasses and contact lenses and LASIK, it seems that we'll be able to cope but take a moment to think about how much time you spend a day NOT reading (screen or print), NOT driving, NOT watching tv/gaming and NOT sleeping. If the answer's less than six hours, understand that means while our eyes developed to be open for about 18 hours and closed for six, without over-focusing, the way we live now could very much be taxing their original evolutionary mandate.

     

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    MD, May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:01am

    Studies have shown that people who do a lot of reading of small text can develop a "pseudomyopia". Generally, when they quit doing this, it will get better.

    http://health.yahoo.com/ency/healthwise/hw122311

    -Dr. D

     

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    Jimmy, May 2nd, 2006 @ 10:05am

    Hmm.. Soon high paid corporate officers will have '"readers" who follow them around reading their PDAs for them, so they can protect their overpaid eyes.

     

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    guerilla, May 5th, 2006 @ 11:28pm

    What now?

    So what should cellphone manufacturers do? Make the cellphone screen as big as a tv screen? Anyway get the latest mobile cellphone guide here: mobile Tech Guide

     

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    Bob, Jul 2nd, 2006 @ 12:20pm

    flexible displays

    With any luck at all we will all have flexible displays in a couple years so mobile displays can be about four times the size and still fit in a cell phone too small to talk on comfortablly. I think both sony and palm have patents registered for rollable dislplays...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 12:12pm

    great speech
    learnt heaps
    thanks for the help

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 4th, 2006 @ 12:13pm

    great speech
    learnt heaps
    thanks for the help

     

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    five fingers, Aug 3rd, 2010 @ 7:00pm

    shoes

     

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