Self Improvement Technology Explained

How Far Should You Really Sit From Your Monitor?

Joel Lee 02-11-2015

Many people claim that sitting too close to a monitor or TV will permanently damage your eyes Log Into Life: Top 9 Tips To Fight Computer Fatigue & Protect Your Health Did you know that your sedentary lifestyle could be killing you from the inside out? Ryan has already presented a case on potential health risks from sitting too long, and for those of us who... Read More , but is there any empirical evidence to back it up? And what is the ideal sitting distance for regular computer users?


The answer is quite simple.

Monitors and TVs pose no risk of permanent eye damage. None at all. It’s a myth that started as an old wives tale and keeps being perpetuated without any solid supporting evidence. The truth is, it doesn’t matter how near or far you sit:

“I don’t think people were meant to be looking at a computer screen all day long,” [Dr. Richard Rosen] said, but “it’s not going to cause long-term damage.”

Much of the problem can come from the screen, because people staring at them for long periods of time tend not to blink.

“If a tear film is a little on the dry side from not blinking sufficiently…then the quality of vision suffers,” said Rosen. “It’s sort of a temporary phenomenon.”

As a guideline, start from arm’s length and adjust accordingly. A smaller screen (e.g. under 14 inches) might be more comfortable up close while a larger screen (e.g. over 20 inches) might require that you sit further back. But anything goes as long as you’re comfortable.

The real secret to fighting computer-related eye fatigue 4 Ways To Prevent Computer-Related Eye Strain Without Losing Productivity Do you spend many hours in front of a computer screen? If you do, you’re probably familiar with the inescapable eye strain that comes with it. Headaches, burning eyes, itchiness and just being tired, are... Read More is to take frequent breaks and give your eyes some rest. Doing so could help you sleep better and improve your health Sleep Better & Improve Your Health By Changing How You Use Your Computer Computer work must not be hard on your body. Simple changes that only cost you minutes each day can have a great impact. Here are some tools to help you out. Read More .

How big is your monitor and how far away do you sit from it? Do you frequently struggle with eye strain? Share with us in the comments, maybe we can help.


Image Credit: Woman Staring At Laptop by lightpoet via Shutterstock

Related topics: Computer Monitor, Health.

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  1. Kate Wales
    February 7, 2017 at 6:10 am

    We are transitioning over to 50" computer monitors at our 911 center - we cannot move them any farther away than about 20 inches and we are looking at them 10+ hours a shift. When they are this close, it's very difficult to even see the edges of the screen because, unlike when we had 5 small monitors that we could curve towards us, these 50" behemoths are flat and very, very hard to see. It's also impossible to keep them at "eye level". Take breaks and do something else? Nope, not an option for us. Being in front of the screen is our ONLY option. Fun, huh??

  2. Anonymous
    November 10, 2015 at 11:17 am

    All Browsers Have Extensions And / Or Configuration Settings To Make Monitors Less Bright By Allowing Colors To Be Changed.

    For CHROME I Use The Extension With ID Code



  3. Anonymous
    November 4, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Perhaps I'm more sensitive than most people. The older monitors always seemed too bright to me, and using the college computer terminals for lengthy periods (even with regular breaks) was a bit much so I began wearing sunglasses at the computer.

    It never did bother me what anyone else thought, as long as I was comfortable and my eyes didn't hurt or leave those light trails when I looked away from the screen.

    I have lower light settings on my newer versions of monitors at home, but I still want to wear shades sometimes. I sit about two arms lengths away and have dual monitors (I write animation).

    My eyesight has actually gotten better over time, something I attribute to smart eating, using eyeglasses (and sunglasses) more than contacts, as well as my peculiar kind of computer screen safety.

  4. Anonymous
    November 3, 2015 at 10:09 am

    Somebody told me about this 30-2 rule. Look away (as far away as about 20 feet) for two minutes after staring at the screen for 30 minutes.

    • Joel Lee
      November 11, 2015 at 3:46 am

      Thanks for sharing, dinikasaxenas. I've heard a similar rule to yours, called the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This should help with eye strain!

  5. Anonymous
    November 3, 2015 at 7:06 am

    I think it originally came from the old TV's which threw out some radiation from the CRT's

    • Joel Lee
      November 11, 2015 at 3:45 am

      Thanks Michael, that's true and that's probably where the myth indeed began. So grateful that modern screens don't throw out harmful radiation!

  6. Anonymous
    November 3, 2015 at 2:38 am

    I got a pair of glasses with just my bifocal's close-up Rx for looking at the monitor.
    I recall that for watching television, the optimal distance is 3-5 times the screen size.

  7. Anonymous
    November 2, 2015 at 7:16 pm

    I have bad eyesight and have worn glasses for over 50 years, now bi-focals. I cannot wear my glasses when I read, sew or when I'm in front of my computer. My monitor is 27" and I sit a bit less than an arm's length away. I know you can buy special "computer" glasses where the lens are switched top and bottom (the bi-focal part), but I'm quite comfortable the way I am. I did try many times to wear my glasses but ended up with a very stiff neck from tilting my head back so I could see. I haven't noticed any ill effects so far and have my eyes checked regularly.

    • Anonymous
      November 3, 2015 at 12:36 am

      Mulitifocal glasses cost more but are worth the money, in my opinion.

      Ask your optometrist.

      • Anonymous
        November 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

        An optometrist does not work like I do and does not face the same set of conditions. (S)he can only make general recommendations.

        I'm with Susan Bellwood. I, too, have tried bifocals but went back to separate sets of glasses because of the pain in the neck. The two parts of the bifocals were always in the wrong place for me to see comfortably.

  8. Anonymous
    November 2, 2015 at 2:00 pm

    Since the early 1980s, between working as a programmer, using my home PC and watching TV, I have spent at least 12 hours a day in front of some kind of display device. During that time I have had to get stronger eyeglass prescription couple of times. I don't know whether that was due to expected age-related changes in the eye or due to the heavy use of monitors. However, I did suffer regular bouts of blurred vision, pressure behind my eyes, tunnel vision (sometimes quite extreme), seeing spots, sensitivity to light. Since I retired from IT, I cannot remember the last bout of tunnel vision, pressure behind the eyes and seeing spots. Blurred vision occurs rarely and sensitivity to light occurs only of bright, snowy days. No matter what the "experts" declare, long hours in front of a monitor DID affect my vision and well-being. I cannot tell whether the effects are permanent since I do not have a baseline to compare to. I guess only time will tell.

    • Joel Lee
      November 11, 2015 at 3:44 am

      It's true, spending time in front of a screen can cause those issues, but I'm pretty sure modern consensus is that these issues are indeed temporary. The main culprit is that we tend to stop blinking when we're staring at a screen, and this can lead to a whole lot of problems. That's why it's so important to take frequent breaks!

      • Anonymous
        November 11, 2015 at 2:27 pm

        " modern consensus is "
        A consensus means that everyone agrees to say collectively what no one believes individually
        Abba Eban, Israeli statesman (1915-2002)


  9. Anonymous
    November 2, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    You Are Kidding, Right ?

    I Do Not Know About Computer Monitors, But Some Years Ago, I Sat Less Than 2 Meters Away From A Big TV Screen And I Felt Dizzy.

    The Word On The Street Says That You Should Not Look At A TV Screen Less Than 5 Times Its Diagonal Dimension.


    • Joel Lee
      November 11, 2015 at 3:43 am

      If closeness makes you dizzy or hurts your eyes, then you should move back. The key is that "optimal sitting distance" is different from person to person. If someone is comfortable sitting close, they can.

      But I've heard rules of thumbs like yours, such as "sitting distance should be 1.5x the screen's diagonal length", and it's a good rule of thumb.

      • Anonymous
        November 11, 2015 at 8:34 am

        1.5 For TV Screens Seems Too Close, But OK.

        Thank You For Responding.

      • Kate Wales
        February 7, 2017 at 6:12 am

        Moving back is not always an option. We have 50" monitors and cannot move them farther back than 20 inches.