Will Sitting Close to the TV Hurt My Eyes?

As a child, I remember hearing the constant requests from my grandmother and mother while watching TV: "Don't sit too close, it will hurt your eyes! Move back, get off the floor!" I never used to think anything of it, and as I've gotten older it has not been an issue, as I do not sit directly in front of any TV when I am watching it. As children, however, my brother and I would usually end up on the floor in front of the TV when watching our favorite shows or movies. Looking back on it now, I wondered: Will sitting close to the TV actually physically hurt my eyes?

Looking around online, I found the unanimous answer to be a solid NO. There is some history behind this myth, however....

According to this article, there was a time when sitting very close to the TV was truly harmful for people. In 1967, General Electric sold faulty color TV sets that emitted excessive amounts of radiation- as much as 100,000 times more than federal health officials considered safe. This was due to what GE called a "factory error.". GE quickly recalled and repaired the faulty TVs by putting a leaded glass shield around the tubes. Although this incident was very brief and not widespread, the stigma lingers to this day.

I found many, many articles and blog posts online that mentioned how mothers and grandmothers were always the ones claiming that sitting too close to the TV hurts eyes. This makes sense because most of our grandparents and parents lived through this GE recall, and it stuck with them.

It is true, however, that sitting very close to the television (or computer, or other electronic screens) for extended periods of time can cause potential eyestrain and headache. These effects are only temporary though...if a person moves away from the electronic screen, then these issues will go away relatively quickly. According to Dr. Lee Duffner, "Children can focus at close distance without eyestrain better than adults...There is no evidence that this damages the eyes in children." Therefore even if adults are experiencing eyestrain after watching TV for the same amount of time as children, they are more likely to experience eyestrain than the children are.

I also read an interesting point: It may be the case that children are sitting very close to the TV because they have bad eyesight in the first place! Debra Ronca, a contributor to the How Stuff Works website, argues, "Sitting close to the television may not make a child nearsighted, but a child may sit close to the television because he or she is nearsighted and undiagnosed. If your child habitually sits too close to the television for comfort, get his or her eyes tested."

close to tv.jpgDid your parents and/or grandparents tell you to not sit close to the TV when you were young? If so, let them know it is completely safe!


Is it rally safe though? I know sitting close to the television can lead to eyestraining but is that still okay? After some research "eyestrain eventually manifests itself in everything from burning eyes and blurred vision, to headaches, migraines and may even trigger cluster headache attacks." So why not try to help avoid this but not sitting to close to the television and not being on the computer for too long. Afterall eyestraining isn't healthy

Growing up, I had to stand close to the TV because I couldn't see from a distance. That's how my parents realized I needed to get glasses for my poor vision. I don't think those vision problems were caused by television, but just my biology. My mother has glasses, so wouldn't there have been a good chance that I would need them too? I don't know too much about the science of the eyeball and why some people's vision is better compared to others, but I don't think television has anything to do with the problem. Now as far as how many hours a week I spend watching television, that is a whole other story...

I found your blog post really interesting because I constantly heard the same thing growing up. I also thought that it was fascinating that this misconception is actually grounded in some history and truth. However, I like how you took this blog one step further by explaining there can be harmful effects from staring at screens for too long. I think a really interesting follow-up blog might discuss what other possible risks/affects there are from staring at a screen for too long. For example, the Chicago Tribune (and many other sources) have discussed scientific findings that claim the light from electronic screens may be a cause of sleep loss. With electronics and screens playing such a huge role in our daily lives, it's important that we know all the ways in which screens and other components of technology can affect our health.

I think this is interesting, I was always told to back away from the TV as a child. However, not all screens are safe. Computer Vision Syndrome occurs after staring at a computer screen for an extended period of time. This occurs when eye muscles are overworked due to constant and frequent refocusing. Symptoms include eye strain, neck pain, shoulder pain, headaches, and blurred vision.
Sometimes staring at these types of monitors for hours is inevitable so the American Transcription Association recommends focusing your eyes on an object in the distance then focusing your eyes on an object at a closer range then repeat. Doing a few repetitions to break up hours staring at a computer can alleviate eye strain and relax your eye muscles.


Evan, in response to your question...I did not claim that sitting close to the television is what causes a child to need glasses. Rather, what I wrote was that sitting close to the television could potentially be a signal that the child's eyes are already bad in the first place. This claim is that if a child had good eyesight to begin with, then why would they need to sit close to the television? It is more of a piece of advice to parents to get their child's eyes checked out if the child is repeatedly sitting very close to the television. I, too, sat very close to the television as a child. This was one of the reasons that prompted my parents to get my eyes checked out. It turned out that I needed glasses! Therefore, a potential reason that I was sitting so closely to the television is because I couldn't see the television screen from further away.

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