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Apple's newly launched 'Screen Distance' feature set to lower myopia risk

Apple has taken a significant step in prioritising visual health by introducing the 'Screen Distance' setting for iPhones and iPads as part of the recently launched iOS 17 software update.

In today's digital age, it's no secret that increased screen time and prolonged periods of close work have become the norm for people of all ages. However, many may not realise that this modern lifestyle appears to have led to a concerning rise in myopia (nearsightedness), particularly among children and young adults. The scientific community has been closely studying this phenomenon, and their research suggests that excessive screen time and near-focused activities could have been contributing factors to the myopia epidemic [1].

Young girl on iPhone

While it's undeniable that Apple may indirectly contribute to the increase in screen time, we must also acknowledge the enduring popularity of digital devices—a trend unlikely to diminish. A silver lining emerges, though; the tech giant has stepped up to try and safeguard our vision, particularly among the younger generation.

What is the Screen Distance Feature in Apple Products?

Prolonged periods of viewing something up close, whether a digital device or a book, can lead to excessive eyestrain and an increased risk of myopia. Apple's innovative Screen Distance feature, utilising the TrueDepth camera, actively monitors your iPhone usage, prompting you to adjust your device when it's held closer than 30 cm (12 inches) for an extended duration. This smart feature not only encourages children to adopt healthier viewing habits, thereby reducing their myopia risk, but also provides individuals of all ages with a chance to alleviate digital eyestrain.

How to Enable and Use Screen Distance on iPhone & iPad?

How to Enable and Use Screen Distance on iPhone & iPad

Enabling the 'Screen Distance' feature on your Apple device is a straightforward process.

  1. Simply go to your device's settings.

  2. Navigate to 'Screen Time,'

  3. Select 'Screen Distance.'

  4. Turn Screen Distance on or off,

It should also be noted that 'Screen Distance' is turned on by default for children under 13 in a Family Sharing group.

How Does Apple's 'Screen Distance' Setting Protect My Child Against Myopia?

The 'Screen Distance' setting serves as a virtual guardian for your child's eyes. Encouraging them to maintain an appropriate distance from the screen reduces the strain on their eyes and decreases the risk of myopia progression. Moreover, it helps break the habit of holding screens too close, which can be detrimental to visual health in the long run. There is, of course, another issue linked to excessive screen use; dry eyes. As we stare, we blink far less than under 'normal' conditions, and this can lead to a vicious circle of reflex inflammation and damage to the glands which secrete parts of our tear film. Rates of DED (dry eye disease) in younger people are also on the increase, primarily, it seems, as a result of excessive screen time.

In conclusion, Apple's 'Screen Distance' feature in iOS 17 is a promising step forward in the battle against myopia. As scientific research continues to highlight the risks associated with excessive screen time and close work, it's reassuring to see technology giants like Apple take proactive measures to promote healthier screen habits. By enabling 'Screen Distance' on your Apple devices, you not only protect your own eyes but also contribute to safeguarding the vision of the next generation.

If you're a parent whose child has been diagnosed with myopia or if they are struggling with their distance vision, we hope you found MyopiaFocus helpful. Please join our community or sign our petition to get the government and NHS to recognise myopia as an ocular disease/severe ocular condition and fund myopia management for children.

The official Press Release from Apple can be found here.

*The above blog post is an opinion post and should be viewed as such. The information provided is based on personal perspectives and experiences. It is important for parents to take a holistic approach when it comes to managing their child's myopia and consider various factors, including professional advice, scientific research, and individual circumstances. Every child is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with healthcare professionals or eye care specialists for personalised guidance and recommendations regarding the management of myopia in children.

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