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Does Sitting Too Close To The TV Really Damage Your Eyes?

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 your eyes!"

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.

TV Facts

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 and tear.


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 radiation.

TV Downfalls?

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 situation.


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 bedroom

  • Refuse to let your children see shows known to be violent

  • 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
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