It’s called Macbook Pro Retina, but “Retina” or not, it could be hurting your eyes

In today’s world, technology is everywhere. One might even say that it runs our lives. From our computers, smart phones, tablets and gadgets, most people are around technology every waking moment. And, for children, classrooms are becoming outfitted with greater amounts of technology to support teaching curriculum and to serve as a new learning style. It is estimated that 40% of teachers use computers for instruction, and at least one computer is in 97% of all American classrooms.
In honor of Children’s Eye Health and Safety month, we wondered how much technology time children should have both in and out of the classroom.
Don’t Start too Young
Parents should slowly introduce their children to technology. Since 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity (2010) have recommended waiting until the child is at least preschool age, or over the age of two years old, to introduce the child to technology.
After the age of two years old, it is recommended that children have no more than one to two hours of total screen time per day, and this includes all the way up to teenagers. A two hour limit is unrealistic for teenagers, who require screen time for homework tasks, but younger children should prevent straining their eyes for as long as possible.
For youngest technology users (under five years), experts believe that they are not being given a chance to explore the world around them. This could result in a skewed reality and inability to differentiate between technology and the real world. For young children, the emphasis in research has been less about the health and safety risks, although those should be assessed, and more about the development of learning about the world around them.
Digital Eye Strain
According to a survey by the American Optometric Association, almost 1/3 of children use technology for a full hour before taking a visual break. Optometrists are concerned that blue light rays emitted from electronic devices could affect and age the eyes. When technology is used for extended periods of time, the individual could experience what is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
The American Optometric Association defines CVS as eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. The most common symptoms of CVS include:

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms are often caused by:

  • poor lighting
  • glare on the computer screen
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor seating posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • a combination of these factors

Combat Eye Strain
Here are a few ways to combat the negative effects of eye strain:

  1. 20-20-20

Children and adults alike are encouraged to practice the 20-20-20 rule to decrease the effects of eye strain. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.

  1. Practice good posture and viewing distance.

Whether in the classroom or in an office, you should have a comfortable working posture where your joints are aligned. Optimally, when working on a tablet or computer, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 to 5 inches) and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
Smart phones — probably the singular piece of technology most frequently used with poor posture — should be held up at eye level and approximately 16 inches away from the face.

  1. Remember to blink!

This one seems obvious, but blinking can improve focus and reduce dry eyes. If you are suffering from dry eyes, drops can also help.
For some more eye health tips, check out this article from TIME.
Do you find that your back or neck hurts after using technology? How many hours do you spend watching TV, using your smartphone, or working on the computer?

Workplace Productivity? Try Community + Engagement

Results from a 2013 Gallup study provided a surprising (and rather dismal) statistic: of 25 million workers polled, only 30% were actively engaged in their work, and the other 70% fell short of their productivity potential. According to the same study, employees who are engaged in their work are enthusiastic, committed participants in their company whose creativity generates new ideas, attracts customers, and contributes positively to their organization as a whole.
This chart from the Gallup poll shows that since 2000, employee engagement levels across the US have barely changed.
So, what is to be done?
Assuming that employee engagement levels are tied to feelings of (1) personal satisfaction, (2) balance, and (3) enthusiasm in their companies, it makes sense to examine how spatial design can improve these three aspects of their working lives.
(1) Personal Satisfaction
Easy-to-work-in office settings are crucial to a developing a sense of personal satisfaction among employees. The instant-gratification of younger office workers can see one another and easily interact, the same way they do with the instant technology-based communication that they use in their daily lives.
(2) Balance
Environments that foster interaction among employees — whether friendly or professional — are likely to improve company morale and willingness to work. A physically balanced space in the office can guide employees to a sense of psychological balance in their own lives. According to this blog post from WorkDesign magazine, breaking down walls in the office in favor of open architecture can drastically improve employee performance and productivity. Removing barriers between office also removes barriers between employees and enables them to connect on a personal level.
(3) Enthusiasm
Spatial design, coupled with charismatic leadership, boosts employee engagement tremendously. Settings that offer the possibility for both individual and group work, as well as welcoming meeting spaces, build community and camaraderie in the workplace. Flexible furniture offers the option to work individually or in groups – employees have control over their workspace, whether they’re problem solving on their own or as a team.
And not to be forgotten…company management / leaders also play a key role in defining workplace engagement (see this Huffpost blog).
Did you know? “Employee engagement” is such a hot topic right now that it has its own Wikipedia page. It also has increased significantly in relevance in Google’s search engines (based on a growing number of searches) according to the graphic below.