Travelling has always been incredibly popular, but as borders become more porous and transport infrastructure improves and becomes increasingly more affordable, more and more of us are choosing to take international holidays. At the same time, home-nation holidays are also seeing something of a surge, with an increasing number of people choosing to explore their own countries instead of heading off abroad. Whichever way you look at it, there are more people than ever taking holidays, both at home and internationally.
Holidays used be a genuine break from technology – mobile phones were expensive and not particularly common, you couldn’t take your TV with you and laptops were big, heavy and expensive. As a result, spending too much time looking at a screen while you were on holiday wasn’t something people needed to worry about.
Fast forward to today, and there are digital screens everywhere – people take their smartphones, laptops and tablets with them, and even when they’re not looking at those there are television screens on planes, screens in the back of train seats and even screens in taxis; even if you wanted to you’d have a hard time escaping modern backlit screens. And most people probably wouldn’t want to take a break from their digital devices – according to a recent infographic from Shade Station, 30% of people spend more than nine hours (most of the time they’re awake) a day looking at a screen, and 60% of people spend more than five hours each day with their devices. The US has the same problem, particularly with younger generations – the average American 8-18 year old spends 7.5 hours a day staring at a screen.
It’s difficult to imagine that this would drop considerably while you’re on holiday – the portability of modern digital devices, combined with how integral so many people consider them to be to their day-to-day lives, means that when most people go on holiday, their devices simply go with them. According to the BBC, the average person in the UK checks their phone an incredible 32 times a day, and report feeling genuine anxiety when they’re away from their phone, so it’s fair to assume device usage would remain high (or even increase as people use social media and emails to keep up with people back home).
Is this really a problem for travellers? Surely taking your phone, tablet or laptop with you can’t do any harm? Whilst it’s true you’re not going to be seriously hurt or injured just by staring at a digital screen, it’s more than possible you could suffer one of a number of ailments that could ruin your trip. Digital eyestrain is particularly common, with 61% of Americans suffering from eyestrain as a result of spending too long looking at an electronic device.
Spending too long with your screens can cause spams of the muscles at the temple (a result of reading dark text on a bright background), which can lead to stress and tension headaches – more than capable of ruining a day or more of your holiday. Similarly, looking at a screen for too long can cause dry eyes (a result of blinking less while looking at something close up), and can result in eyestrain (from your eyes converging while you look at things close to you). Admittedly they’re not life-threatening conditions, but they can be painful and uncomfortable and can certainly affect your enjoyment of your holiday.
So how can you prevent digital eyestrain from ruining your holiday? The easiest way is to leave your devices and screens at home, but given the statistics above this seems unlikely. Failing complete abstinence from electronic screens, just make sure you and your family are taking regular breaks, in order to give the eyes enough time to relax and focus on something further away. Even just taking a ten minute break every hour you’re looking at a screen can be enough to prevent digital eyestrain from ruining your holiday.