Staring at screens for hours: we don’t want to, but do it anyway

Laptops, televisions and smartphones – our eyes are exposed to multiple screens day in, day out. According to research held in the Netherlands, 50% of the Dutch people find they spend too many hours looking at displays: 49% says to have a minimum of 4 hours screen time a day, while 14% even says more than 8 hours. Almost two-thirds of them would like to reduce these hours. But, despite the fact most Dutch people know that it can cause eye complaints, the vast majority don’t succeed in cutting down their screen time.

‘Crazy gazing’
So, daily screen time of Dutch people is high, and we expect this won’t be very different in the Nordic countries. More than 28% spend more than 6 hours a day behind a display, while for people in their thirties this is almost two in five (38%). The majority (61%) of these people finds their daily screen time too high, and two-thirds (64%) want to reduce these hours. There are several reasons why they want to lessen:

  1. I would rather spend time on other things – 49%
  2. I experience eye strain – 26%
  3. I find staring at screens a waste of my time – 25%
  4. I have neck/back pain – 20%
  5. I would rather spend time having real conversations than typed ones – 18%

Go away, smartphone
When talking about smartphones, more than half of the Dutch respondents (56%) says they spend too much time using these. This percentage increases to 84% for people under thirty! It won’t surprise anyone that the majority wants to cut down the hours spent using their smartphones. However, when it comes to actually doing so, people find it difficult to stick to it. One-third of the Dutch people have intended to reduce, but only one in ten has succeeded. 71% has fallen back into old habits, after one or more attempts.

Too much screen time can cause eye complaints
Despite the wish to reduce the time spent staring at screens and the fact that we get physical complaints on our eyes (26%) and neck or back (20%), still 23% of the Dutch people aren’t aware that that looking at screens for too long can cause eye complaints. 77% does realise this but often doesn’t know which complaints they can get.

Examples of these complaints can be dry eyes, eye strain, blurry view and difficulties focussing. Most of these complaints are only temporary. For children, reading at close distances (less than 20 cm) and for extended periods (more than 45 minutes) is linked to myopia development and progression. The World Health Organisation even advises that children younger than two years of age should not spend any time viewing screens and be physically active for at least 30 to 180 minutes a day, to avoid the increased risk of childhood obesity and promote well-being and good mental health.

Advice to your customers
Reality is: we can’t really live without screens anymore. But it won’t harm anyone to have a daily limit or to plan some ‘screen-free’ hours.

  • For children and young people, we advise that they keep a minimum of 40 centimetre’s distance between their eyes and screen and do not read for prolonged periods without a break. Spending time outdoors can also delay the onset of myopia for children at risk.
  • For people up to 20 years of age, we advise looking at the distance for about 20 seconds after every 20 minutes of watching a screen or reading a book.
  • Everyone, including adults, is advised to relieve the eyes from staring at screens regularly and to blink often.


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