Staring at your cell phone for long periods of time is not only considered socially rude, but may also be bad for your eyes.  That's the conclusion of a leading British eye doctor, who has found a link between increased smartphone use and a rise in cases of Myopia, or short-sightedness.  The report from David Allamby of Focus Clinics reported a 35% increase in patients with advanced Myopia since the advent of smartphones.  Allamby attributes that number to excessive screen watching from a close proximity, something he calls "Screen-Sightedness," which he says can activate the genes that control myopia and keep them active longer.  He predicts that Myopia could increase by another 50% among young adults in the next decade, as smartphone use continues to explode.

But not everyone on this side of the Atlantic is so sure about that theory.  Dr. Nan Wang is with the Department of Opthamalogy at the UT Health Science Center in Houston.  "Myopia, near-sightedness, short-sightedness...those are common interchangeable terms," she tells KTRH.  "It's not a disease, but is mainly a focusing problem."  However, she cautions that the link between Myopia and use of hand-held devices like smartphones is not conclusive.  "This could be a direct cause or an indirect cause (of Myopia)," she says.  "By using hand-held devices, maybe they're just not spending enough time outdoors."  Dr. Wang explains her theory behind this.  "It has been shown that outdoor sun exposure is required for prevention of development of Myopia.”

In his research, Allamby concluded that children and young adults are at the highest risk of developing "Screen-Sightedness" because of their heavy use of smartphones and other portable electronic devices.   Whether from actually staring at the screen too much or just not getting out in the sunlight enough, the research shows that too much time on smartphones, tablets, and laptops could mean a future of glasses, contacts, or laser eye surgery.  For years, parents have told their children not to sit too close to the television because of fears about eye damage.  Now, they can giving kids the same warnings about computers and phones.