Do you find that you hold your iPhone or iPad quite close to your face to get more details on that small screen? Or perhaps you have a child that does this? There’s a new feature in iOS 17 that can help ensure that won’t adversely impact your vision. Here’s how to enable it…
Let’s start by stating what’s hopefully obvious: if you have to hold everything close to your face so you can read it, it’s a good time to get your eyes tested by your friendly local optometrist. Your iPhone screen does have a beautiful display, but it’s small, so if you’re occasionally peering at something tiny, that’s not particular concerning. The problem with holding the device close to your face for any length of time, though, is that in the short term, it causes eye fatigue and headaches, and in the long term, it can adversely impact your overall vision.
While it’s easy to be prescriptive and say “Just get used to holding it further away” that can be tough to do, particularly if it’s a child who is peering closely at their iPhone (or iPad, as iPadOS 17 also includes this new feature) for extended periods. Also worth noting is that if you bring it closer to your face for a moment to see something small, that’s no worry, it’s extended close viewing that is the risk factor being monitored.
Enter Screen Distance, a new safety feature in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 that uses the TrueDepth Face ID camera on the front of the device to calculate facial distance from the device and warn you if you hold it too close for an extended period. Since it’s so easy to be unaware when you’re doing this, I strongly recommend everyone enable this feature and then forget about it. Hopefully, you’ll never see the warning, but if you do? That’s your device helping you keep your eyesight strong and healthy.
SCREEN DISTANCE MONITORING IN IOS 17
Upgrade your iPhone to the latest version of iOS – see How to Upgrade your iPhone or iPad – and then go into “Settings“. Near the top you’ll see “Screen Time”:
(Notice that since I have an iPhone 15 Pro, the last of the displayed Settings is “Action Button”. That replaces the old mute button on the left side of earlier iPhones, if you’re curious).
Tap on “Screen Time” to proceed.
I use my iPhone a lot, as you can see. That’s something else to think about in terms of eyesight and fatigue, but that’s the subject of another article! For this task, tap on “Screen Distance“. Don’t see that listed? Then you might not have updated to iOS 17. Go to General > Software Update to check for updates from the main Settings screen.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SCREEN DISTANCE
Once you tap on “Screen Distance” you’ll be shown a couple of informational screens that explain the feature:
This screen says: “To reduce eye strain, and the risk of myopia in children, Screen Distance will alert you to hold an iPhone or iPad with Face ID at a recommended distance.” To proceed, tap on the “Continue” button. Another information screen appears:
What the information screens don’t explain is that the alert is only going to be triggered if you hold it 12″ or closer from your face for 20 minutes or longer. As I said earlier, holding it closer to peruse some small print is not a problem, but I’ve watched plenty of children stare at their screen from just a few inches away for what seems like hours on end without a break.
HOW TO ENABLE SCREEN DISTANCE IN IOS17
Ready to enable it? Good! Tap on “Continue” again. Finally, you’ll see that it’s just another Settings on/off switch, now enabled (as denoted by the green background):
That’s it. Enabled. I would recommend you do the same on your children’s devices, and anyone else who tends to hold their device too darn close to their face. 12″ is not very far if you measure it!
THE SCREEN DISTANCE WARNING MESSAGE
I was unable to cause the message to appear, but fortunately, others have tested it out, and here’s what they saw on their devices after the too-close period:
Hopefully, you won’t ever see this, but I like that my iPhone is keeping a proverbial eye on my usage to help me avoid unnecessary eye strain. I hope you find this a useful – and invisible – feature too.
Pro Tip: I’ve been writing tutorials for the Apple iPhone since it was first released. Please check out my extensive iPhone help area for lots and lots of useful content.