Staring at the tiny screen of a smartphone for long hours can cause eye fatigue at best and irreversible eye damage at worst. While you can hardly imagine your life without your smartphone, you just have to find ways to protect your eyes when using it. Since there are some effective ways to minimize the risk to your eyes from a smartphone, there’s no reason not to try them.
- 1. Get an Anti-Glare Screen Protector
- 2. Blink Frequently/Splash Your Eyes With Water
- 3. Follow the 20/20/20 Rule
- 4. Adjust the Brightness, Contrast, and Text Size
- 5. Keep Your Screen Clean
- 6. Keep the Right Distance
- 7. Use Blue Light Filters or Night Mode
- 8. Use Blue Light Glasses
- 9. Set Time Limits
- 10. Skip Bedtime Smartphone Usage
- Frequently Asked Questions
1. Get an Anti-Glare Screen Protector
Most mid- and high-end smartphones do come with an anti-glare screen by default, but if yours doesn’t, go get one immediately. Anti-glare screens are not expensive, but they make a drastic difference because they reduce the amount of blue light that gets to your eyes.
2. Blink Frequently/Splash Your Eyes With Water
Blinking frequently is recommended when using a desktop, but for smartphones, it’s even more important. Staring at a screen dries your eyes, and the natural way to moisten them is by blinking. This reduces the negative effects of screen radiation.
Additionally, if you splash your eyes with water (just any ordinary water, nothing fancy here), this also helps to moisten them. You can also keep artificial tears eye drops around to make it easier to moisten your eyes.
3. Follow the 20/20/20 Rule
Human eyes aren’t created for prolonged staring at short distances. Rather, a human eye adapts when alternating between a long distance for a few seconds or minutes and a short distance. This is why watching something at a close distance for hours, even if it is just reading a book, forces your eyes to behave unnaturally.
With smartphones, there is the so-called 20/20/20 rule. It means that every 20 minutes you need to look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
Even better, after every 40 or 50 minutes with your device, take a 10- or 15-minute break away from any screen. You could even take a quick exercise or meditation break – this will help not only your eyes but your overall health.
4. Adjust the Brightness, Contrast, and Text Size
Brightness, contrast, and text size are the three aspects of a smartphone that affect eyesight the most. Brightness and contrast that is too high or too low are both harmful to the eyes. You can adjust these in the settings of your device. The exact steps vary based on your device and manufacturer. While there are apps available for both Android and iOS, it’s better to use the built-in brightness and contrast settings.
On iOS 15:
- Open the Control Center.
- Drag the brightness icon to the desired brightness.
- Open Settings.
- Select “Display & Brightness.”
- Drag the slider to your preferred brightness.
On Android 12:
- Expand the Quick Settings tray at the top of your screen.
- Drag the brightness slider to your preferred brightness.
On both systems, you can also turn off “Auto brightness” in the brightness settings on your device.
It will also help if you avoid prolonged smartphone use in dim environments. Never stare at the screen in the dark, especially with a high brightness level.
As for text size, don’t keep it too small, as it strains the eyes and decreases the viewing distance. Generally, larger text is better, though scrolling time to see everything on a page is increased, and this is certainly irritating.
5. Keep Your Screen Clean
With your fingers constantly on the screen, by no surprise, there are many dirty marks on it. This dirt is not only unsanitary but also adds additional strain on your eyes. Just take a soft cloth and clean your screen regularly. You don’t need any water. A simple micro-fiber cloth will do.
6. Keep the Right Distance
Another common reason your eyes hate your smartphone is that you place it too close. Although I am not a frequent smartphone user (because I find this device too large to carry just for the idea and too small to use for browsing or reading), when I do use mine, I do tend to place it quite close to my eyes.
I know this is wrong, but when I can’t see it properly from the recommended distance of 16 to 18 inches away, I am fooling myself that just a minute or two won’t cause much damage. Whenever possible, try to keep your device 16 to 18 inches away, as this is considered the optimal distance.
7. Use Blue Light Filters or Night Mode
Blue light filters help reduce how the light from your screen affects not only your eyes but your overall health. These can help protect your eyes when using a smartphone and improve your sleep if you’re using your phone right before bed.
While these filters aren’t quite as effective as anti-glare screens, they’re a good alternative and a great addition to anti-glare screens. For iPhones and iPads running iOS 9.3 and higher, it’s best to use Night Shift, which is built in. However, you can also browse the App Store for other options.
On Android, you can enable Night Mode or Comfort View to filter out blue light.
- Open “Settings.”
- Tap “Display.”
- Select either “Comfort View” or “Night Mode,” or set up both.
- For Comfort View, set your blue light filter level and a schedule, if you want.
- For Night Mode, turn on Night Mode and select a schedule, if you want.
8. Use Blue Light Glasses
If you want to reduce blue light from any and all devices you use, including computers, you may want to opt for blue light glasses. While some work as reading glasses and offer various levels of magnification, others simply filter blue light. They’re a simple and effective way to protect your eyes when using a smartphone.
A few good options include:
- livho 2-Pack Blue Light Blocking Glasses
- J+S Vision Blue Light Shield
- Maxjuli Blue Light Blocking Glasses
If your eyes are a known weakness in your body, these tips may not be enough to protect them completely, but without them, it’s worse. In any case, it won’t hurt if you follow them – they don’t demand that much time and effort, but the results are rewarding.
9. Set Time Limits
It’s easy to lose track of time when using a smartphone, but you can set time limits for yourself as a reminder to put your phone down. You can set alarms or timers using built-in or third-party apps.
If you have iOS 12 and later, you can take advantage of Screen Time. This gives you a report of your screen time usage and allows you to set limits for your device and others in your family, such as kids.
- Open Settings.
- Tap “Screen Time.”
- Tap “Continue.”
- Follow the prompts to set up the feature for your device or another that belongs to your family.
Android 10 and later have a similar feature called Digital Wellbeing. With each Android release, the feature has gotten a little better and more useful.
- Open Settings.
- Tap “Digital Wellbeing & parental controls.”
- View app usage and set up timers, focus mode, bedtime mode, and more.
10. Skip Bedtime Smartphone Usage
Not only is it bad for your sleep to use your phone right before bed, but a dim or dark room causes even worse eye strain. Protect your eyes when using a smartphone by putting your phone away at bedtime.
If you absolutely have to use it, such as reading an ebook before going to bed, use a dimmer brightness or turn on a bedside lamp. Also consider listening to an audiobook to avoid staring at your screen.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is blue light?
Blue light doesn’t refer to actual bluish hues on your screen. Blue light is a type of electromagnetic wave that isn’t quite as powerful as UV rays. While you encounter all types of visible light rays every day, you’re exposed more to blue light due to all the screens you use every day. In fact, even the sun exposes you to blue light, and that’s just one of the many reasons you don’t stare at the sun.
Is blue light really that harmful?
While studies haven’t proven conclusively that blue light will damage your retina or even cause severe eyes diseases, such as macular degeneration, eye strain is the real problem. If you’ve ever dealt with blurry vision, dry or gritty eyes, eye redness, or problems getting your eyes to focus, you know how frustrating and even painful eye strain can be. Plus, the more you strain your eyes, the worse your headaches will be.
As studies haven’t proven more severe issues are possible, increasing amounts of screen time could later prove that blue light is more dangerous than just eye strain.
For those more prone to eye-related illness, such as seniors, consider smartphones that have blue light filters built in.
Are built-in smartphone settings enough to protect me?
Yes. While older smartphones didn’t really have any built-in protections outside of brightness and contrast settings, smartphones have become much smarter about protecting users. After all, if users’ eyes feel more comfortable, they’ll use their apps for longer periods.
Take full advantage of built-in settings like Night Mode, Comfort View, Night Shift, Digital Wellbeing, and Screen Time to reduce your exposure and protect your eyes when using a smartphone.
Image credit: Unsplash All screenshots by Crystal Crowder
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