Q: I have an son who’s 11 and a daughter who’s 9½, and for many years, they have sat close to the TV when watching. I have asked them to sit farther away, and they do move back maybe a foot…but they always go back to viewing the show close up, even if the screen is a 40” color flat screen. Any studies that show why? Any concerns? My wife and I sit 8 to 10 feet from the TV.
–Up Close and Personal, in Rochester Hills, MI
A: Dear Up Close,
Concern about sitting close to TV screens, like concern about reading in low light, is founded more on what our parents told us when we were little than on research. The worries about sitting close dates from the (not so long ago) time when TVs were actually “tubes”—cathode ray tubes, that is—and people were uncertain about how the cathode radiation emitted might affect a viewer’s eyes. Today’s TVs flatscreens only emit the light you see, which removes that concern. And there’s no evidence that sitting close to either kind of screen hurts your eyes.
That said, the fact that your children sit so close to the TV may be a sign that they are near-sighted and that this distance is where they best resolve the pixels of color, light, and darkness into a coherent image. Bring them in for an eye exam to see whether they need glasses.
If their eyes are fine, then they probably sit close because they like having the screen fill their peripheral vision. That shouldn’t cause any problems. Just make sure that they aren’t staring at screens all the time—that can cause eye strain and, of course, will take time away from all of the other activities they need to accomplish in a day to be happy and healthy.
Enjoy your media and use them wisely,
From artificial organs to robotic surgery, modern medical science has vastly improved in the past few decades. Why then, despite all these technological advances, are most pediatricians and public schools still using vision tests developed 148 years ago? In a world where surgeons can preserve the vision of patients with ocular tumors, relying on a vision test where kids simply cover an eye and read a string of letters seems a little archaic. But despite its simplicity, the commonly used Snellen Eye Chart is very accurate— assuming the test subject is old enough to understand what’s being asked of him. …