iOS 17 has a new eye strain reduction feature — here’s how it works

iOS 17 logo on iPhone
(Image credit: Future)

Trying to make sure your kids aren't holding their phones dangerously close to their eyes for too long? Apple is introducing a new feature with iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 to help with that. It's called Screen Distance, and Apple says the opt-in feature aims to alleviate eye strain and reduce the risk of nearsightedness in children who frequently use Apple devices.

It's easy to get wrapped up in what you're doing on your phone and hold it entirely too close to your face for entirely too long — and that goes for both kids and adults. Screen Distance uses your Apple device's TrueDepth Camera, the same one that powers Face ID to unlock your phone at a glance, to detect the distance between the screen and your eyes and let you know when it's time to give your handheld some space. (Pro tip: Throwing on a pair of the best blue light blocking glasses can also help protect your eyes if staring at a screen for hours is part of your day to a day.)

A distance of 16-18 inches (40-45 cm) between your phone and your eyes is generally considered optimal for keeping them healthy and avoiding eye strain. That's roughly arm's length for the majority of people. Once enabled, Screen Distance sends a notification warning "iPhone/iPad is Too Close" if you hold your phone less than 12 inches (30 cm) away from your eyes for several minutes. 

The Screen Distance feature enabled on an iPad shows a warning that the user's eyes are too close to the screen for too long.

(Image credit: Apple)

After you move your iPhone or iPad to a safe distance, a checkmark will appear on the screen, and you can tap the "Continue" button to proceed and continue scrolling away. Alongside the warning, Screen Distance will display a reminder stating "Keeping your phone at arm's length can protect your eyesight."

Screen Distance is off by default, but once iOS 17 goes live, you'll be able to toggle it on and off in the Settings app. Just go to Settings > Screen Time > Screen Distance, and tap the button on the right. Apple says the feature will be compatible with iPhone XS and newer models, as well as with 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models released in 2018 or later. Screen Distance is one of several iOS 17 features geared toward making your iPhone more enjoyable and easy to use, including StandBy Mode and Live Voicemail.

Both iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 are currently in developer beta and are expected to launch later this year. The first public beta is scheduled for later this summer. If you're eager to check out Screen Distance or any of the other features coming with this update, here's how to download and install the iOS 17 beta right now.

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Alyse Stanley
News Editor

Alyse Stanley is a news editor at Tom’s Guide overseeing weekend coverage and writing about the latest in tech, gaming and entertainment. Prior to joining Tom’s Guide, Alyse worked as an editor for the Washington Post’s sunsetted video game section, Launcher. She previously led Gizmodo’s weekend news desk, where she covered breaking tech news — everything from the latest spec rumors and gadget launches to social media policy and cybersecurity threats.  She has also written game reviews and features as a freelance reporter for outlets like Polygon, Unwinnable, and Rock, Paper, Shotgun. She’s a big fan of horror movies, cartoons, and miniature painting.