Safety screen alienSamsung has just updated an Android app that it makes available to all Android users via the Google Play Store: the Samsung Safety Screen app. This “helps children hold the device at an ideal safe distance from their eyes.”

With more and more children reading onscreen, many parents and educators may regard this as a useful thing. As the Samsung blurb explains it, “Kids are spending more time these days watching content on electronic devices. While devices like tablets and smartphones are adding a lot to their experience of growing up, there is an increasingly problematic behavior of kids sitting too close to the devices. The behavior could cause serious damage to their eyes/vision. Some of the problems that kids could face are: computer vision syndrome, strain to the brain, and attacks to the cornea.”

I’m not sure that any of the three problems Samsung cites are exactly clinically accurate descriptions, or even correct English. But you don’t need a clinician to see that this could be a good idea. The app “uses facial recognition technology by using the front camera on the device to calculate the optimal distance. When the child’s eyes are too close to the screen, the app will block a big part of the screen and advises the child to move back using a friendly animation.” According to some user reviews, it does work on other devices besides Samsung handsets. However, it is only an Android app, so iPhone/iPad users will have to look for a solution elsewhere.

Some commentators, of course, decry any screen time as bad for children. Other studies find e-reading for kids both popular and beneficial. And the cute alien in the animation may be so appealing that kids get a more positive experience of onscreen reading. Just so long as they don’t keep pushing their noses against the screen to get the alien to appear …



  1. My concerns are similar. I suspect that reading extensively without stopping often to shift focus from close-in to distant may contribute to near-sightedness. That’s my explanation for my near-sightedness, which hit about twelve. I read a lot as a kid.

    That suggests that this app—and indeed all ereaders—might want to offer an eye focus break. Every ten minutes or so, perhaps when the page is turned, what’s being read would be replaced by a screen asking the reader to look around at distant objects for ten to fifteen seconds—or whatever research shows to be helpful.

    The same is true with computers. We need breaks from staring at them too. Searching Apple’s App Store for “eye strain” turned up about nine apps from $2.99 down that dealt with eye strain in varying ways. The same is probably true for Windows.

    One app said that some organizations suggest a 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look up for 20 seconds and focus on objects more than 20 feet away.

    As for smartphones, apparently some people are getting neck strain from the less-than-healthy looking down for long periods such devices tend to encourage. Look around. Almost no one holds their smartphone up at eye level.

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