5 Things That Can Happen To Your Body If You Spend All Day Staring At A Computer Screen

by Caroline Burke

Looking at screens is essentially unavoidable. No matter what job you have or how many digits are in your salary, smart phones and laptops have become so ubiquitous that you're actually in the minority if you're not spending several hours a day staring at one, the other, or both. In some ways, this is amazing. We have unlimited access to knowledge at our fingertips, and we can communicate regularly with people all over the world. But at the same time, there are definitely some drawbacks, which inevitably require you to ask, is staring at a computer screen bad for you?

Your eyes aren't evolutionarily equipped to stare at the specific type of blue light that screens emit. Because of that, you can actually incur temporary eye damage just by staring at a screen for too long. Since millennials are basically the first generation to grow up with screens, though, the level of permanent damage we might be incurring isn't entirely known yet.

For now, all you can really do is stay cognizant of how much time you spend staring at a screen, and try to break that time up with activities in between. Here are five things that can happen to your body as a result of staring at a computer screen for too long, along with some suggestions for how to counteract some of the more negative side effects.

It Strains Your Eyes

Staring at a computer or phone screen can be a serious strain on your eyes. A 2016 survey by the Vision Council revealed that as many as 65 percent of Americans deal with eye strain after staring at a computer screen for several hours at a time.

If you want to work on decreasing the level of discomfort here, do your best to try looking at only one screen most of the time, rather than toggling back and forth between phone and computer screens, as most of us tend to do throughout the day.

Your Vision Gets Blurry

In addition to your eyes becoming dry or sore, your vision can literally go blurry if you stare at nothing but a screen for hours on end.

Here are some ways to avoid this: Keep your face at least a foot away from any screen, take intermittent breaks away from your screen (treat yourself to a coffee!), and make it a point to do any activity off of the screen that you can, such as writing notes instead of typing them. Trust me, your eyes will thank you for these little changes.

You Might Experience Social Anxiety Away From Your Screen

Staring at a screen for long periods of time can trigger social anxiety, according to Elwood Watson of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education. The ability to communicate via screens, while an amazing feat in technological advances, has totally changed the way we interact with one another, to our own detriment. Watson wrote,

As a college professor, I see this inability to converse directly with other human beings. In fact, I have seen students on campus walking next to one another texting as opposed to speaking to one another.

The solution to this one is pretty simple: Talk to your friends instead of texting them. Seriously, even just speaking on the phone will be less of a strain in the long run than texting in long threads.

You Struggle With Back And Neck Pain

Staring at a screen can affect your posture subconsciously, thus leading to back and neck pain if you do this on a daily basis (who doesn't these days?).

The solution? Try the 20-20-20 rule: For every 20 minutes you spend on your computer, spend 20 seconds looking at something at least 20 feet away. This will help relax your eye muscles, and it'll also serve as a reminder to fix your posture by sitting up straighter to get a better look at whatever you focus your sights on.

Sorry To Scare You, But You Might Sustain Brain Damage

Too much screen time can actually cause structural and functional changes in your brain, including an atrophy in the part of the brain that controls planning, prioritizing, and impulse control. Basically, if your brain is strictly focused on a screen for the majority of your day, this means that you're likely not spending enough time to exercise other parts of your brain, which is what leads to those damaging changes.

The solution? Save your Netflix bender for the occasional rainy day. For work, see how you can rearrange or compartmentalize different aspects of your day so that your brain enjoys a little bit of variation.