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Medical myth: Sitting too close to the TV damages your eyesight

Medical myth: Sitting too close to the TV damages your eyesight

It's a line most parents have used at some point: but is there any truth to the claim that sitting too close to the television can give you square eyes?

Where did the myth come from?

I vividly remember, as a child, my mother shouting at my sister and me to stop sitting on the floor close to the television and sit on the sofa instead, as the TV would damage our eyesight. My mum never shouted at our dog for sitting too close.

Maybe the dog’s eyes are different, I thought. Or maybe he’d just growl and ignore her anyway. Well, it turns out my mum was wrong (not that I’d ever tell her). 

There’s no evidence that sitting close to the TV damages your eyes.


What's the truth?

There are probably two reasons the myth came about. The first is similar to the myth that reading in poor light causes eye damage—it’s falsely
assumed that focusing on things very close harms the eyes. It doesn’t. It’s also true that in the 1960s, some colour TVs emitted radiation, and this could—at least in theory—damage eyes. 

It’s likely that this, combined with the myth that straining your eyes damages them, meant that countless children over the years have been unfairly chastised for sitting too close.

So nothing to worry about?

While sitting close to the TV won’t cause damage to eyesight, it can be an indication that someone is short-sighted, meaning that things in the distance are harder for them to focus on. 

If someone persistently needs to sit close to the TV in order to see it, then there’s no harm in going to the optician to get their eyesight assessed by a professional.


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