Perhaps you heard the warning countless times as a child
while inching closer and closer to Mighty Mouse or Wonder
Woman or Greg Brady. Perhaps you delivered the warning countless
times to your children as they inched closer and closer to
Knight Rider or Marge Simpson ... or Greg Brady.
"Don't sit so close to the television or it will ruin
Parents have been issuing this warning since televisions
first met living rooms, but how true is it? Does sitting too
close to the TV really damage your eyes?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),
kids in the United States watch about 4 hours of TV
per day. That's more than double the AAP guideline recommendations
of children 2 or older viewing no more than 1 to 2 hours
of quality programming per day.
It's not at all surprising that the vast majority of children
and adults share in the experience of watching television
on a daily basis. In fact, a whopping 99% of all U.S. families
have at least one television set in their home. It is convenient,
relatively inexpensive, and always available.
Most children plug into the world of television long before
they enter school, and an astonishing 70% of child-care centers
use TV during a typical day.
Eye Knew It!
So when you or your children are practically sitting inside
the TV, are your eyes suffering?
Dr. Lee Duffner, spokesperson for the American Academy of
Ophthalmology, responds in his professional opinion: "Hogwash.
You won't cause any physical damage to your eyes."
Actually, your eyes have specialized muscles that control
the shape of the eye lens (for focusing) and your eye movements
(to keep the eyes moving together). If an object is closer
to the eye, as it is when you are close to the TV, the muscles
controlling the lens automatically change, or accommodate
its shape to bring the object into proper focus.
Some children and adults see the images on a television screen
more clearly if they sit closer to it. According to The American
Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), kids can actually focus up
close without eyestrain better than adults, so they often
develop the habit of sitting right in front of the television
or holding reading material close to their eyes.
Research concludes that although television won't harm the
eyes, it may cause eye fatigue if you are sitting too close
to it for a long period of time. Fortunately though, the tiny
eye muscles mentioned above are like other muscles in the
body: they may fatigue, but they are resilient. Your body,
including your eyes, evolved to handle a lot of daily wear
Prior to 1968 some television sets emitted excessive
X-rays, but that problem has now been eliminated. Today,
modern FDA-regulated TVs don't give off any dangerous
While under ordinary circumstances watching TV up close may
not ruin your eyes, the jury is still out as to its effects
on your brain.
Theoretically, many say that some television can be a good
thing. Preschoolers can get help learning the colors on public
television, elementary students can learn about wildlife on
nature shows, and parents can keep up with current events
watching the evening news.
But despite the potential advantages in moderation, the fact
is as a whole we're watching too much television - and that
can be detrimental for a number of reasons, especially to
children. Today's television viewers are increasingly exposed
to violence, risky behaviors, and obscene language, and research
shows a definite correlation between these actions and young
peoples' perceptions of what is right and wrong. Furthermore,
children are watching far more TV than ever before at the
expense of playing outside or getting some form of exercise,
and researchers attribute this as one of the prime reasons
to the epidemic of obesity among American youth.
Since television is clearly here to stay, therefore, it is
important that parents manage their children's TV viewing
so that it can be a plus rather than a minus in the family
Sitting too close to the TV may not be a real issue
... but here are some ways parents CAN truly protect
their children from their televisions ...
Know what programs your children are watching
Take time to watch TV with your children, and to
discuss what they are viewing and correct any potential
misapprehensions, such as:
Point out that although the actor has not actually
been hurt or killed, such violence in real life
results in pain or death
Set limits on the amount of time your children
spend with the television
Consider removing the TV set from your child's
Refuse to let your children see shows known to
Change the channel or turn off the TV set when offensive material comes on
and explain why you did so
- Disapprove of the violent episodes in front of your
children, stressing the belief that such behavior
is not the best way to resolve a problem