As an 80's child, I heard a lot of stern advice from my parents about the many risks of ‘spoiling my eyesight’. Let's dive into 5 lies we've been told as children by our parents.
Don't read books in bed with dim/no light
As a kid, I used to read in bed a lot because that’s when I put aside my other adventures. Reading a book before bed was what put me to sleep. However, my mother would always scold me for doing so. “later you spoil your eyes” she would say.
Finally, I stopped reading in bed. It was just not worth getting an earful for.
It turns out reading in the dark makes our eyes tired, like long distance running with heavy shoes makes you tired. Reading with good lighting makes it easier for your eyes, like running on a track instead of running in mud. So bed-readers rejoice! Aside from becoming sleepy, you are perfectly fine.
Don't watch TV in the dark
I’d sneak out of bed at night to catch my favorite horror series, Supernatural. That changed one night when my early bird parents decided to get out of bed for a swill. They caught me in the act. I got a good sounding from my parents about my eyesight will be harmed for watching TV in the dark. It lasted so long I missed a whole episode!
Naturally, I promptly forgot about that lecture the next day. I continued watching any time I wanted without harming my eyesight. Losing eyesight from watching in the dark was just a myth.
In the dark, your pupils dilate to receive more light. But when you are watching the bright screen, the pupils constrict since there is plenty of light. Being in a dark room though, your eyes frequently switch between dilation and constriction, causing your eyes to tire quickly. If you do feel tired though, maybe an early night would be better than an extra hour of tv.
Some people believe that TV emits radiation that is harmful to the eyes. As a child, I thought that made sense. However, I know better now. LED and Plasma TVs emit very little radiation of low energy. Unless you stick your face to the screen for 2 days straight, you will be as safe as a baby.
However, watching in the dark do cause eyestrain. Our eyes have to work extra hard to keep up with the constantly changing level of light from the TV.
Don't sit too close to the TV
Something kids are too familiar with, “Don’t sit so close to the TV! You’ll spoil your eyes!” yells mom.
The ultimatum was to keep a distance or stare at a blank screen, what a wet blanket.
My siblings and I would comply by sliding our bums back slowly until our mom stops her stare of death. That’s how we know it’s far enough.
It was much later that I learned that watching TV up-close will not spoil your eyes, but will cause some eye strain and fatigue, which can be fixed with a nice nap.
Don't stare at the screen for over an hour
Did you ever wonder, how our mom knows what we are doing without even being present?
“Times up! Get off the computer now!” I hear my mom screaming from down the stairs, you’ll get short-sighted she said. How does she know I’ve been on the computer screen for over an hour and why would I get short-sighted by staring at a screen for prolonged hours?
Being a teen, you know I ignored her war cries and continued until she came up to turn the screen off. It appears that getting short-sighted from staring at a screen for prolonged hours was just a myth. It was more like giving your eyes an endurance workout.
The eye focuses through the use of your optical muscles. Muscles in the eye, like in the rest of your body, benefit from exercise. That is why we are advised to look at faraway things every so often when working on a screen. However, muscles become weaker through disuse. It is beneficial to use them as much as possible.
Don’t read in the car
As an everyday car passenger, I would always bring a book to read while commuting.
After a while, I would complain to my mom about my eyes being tired, and my head spinning. I felt like vomiting.
My mom would lecture me not to read in the car. Eventually, I stopped. That sick feeling from motion sickness was just not worth it.
What happened was that my eyes and ears disagreed about which way my body was moving, which causes motion sickness. Luckily, no harm was caused to my eyes, even though it felt like my eyes and head was going to explode.
Thanks to my hours of Googling, I need to rest my eyes now. However, I am happy to know that with a short nap, my eyes will be good as new. Like so many things we are told as children, myths about TV and the eyes are mostly forgotten. Now that we know the truth, we can avoid passing on these myths to future generations.