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iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 introduced a lot of goodies, including one feature called Screen Distance, which is designed to help preserve eye health for younger users and prevent the development of near-sightedness, as well as reduce eye strain for people of all ages. Once you turn the feature on, the device's TrueDepth camera will keep an eye out (pun intended) for any time you hold your device too close to your face. It measures the distance between the device and your eyes, and if it’s less than an arm’s length away for a certain period of time (Apple does not disclose how long, but I found that it kicked in after about four minutes), you’ll get a notification to adjust.

It’s really easy to set up in just a few steps. The steps are identical for iPhone and iPad, but I used an iPhone 14 for this tutorial.

How to use Screen Distance to reduce eye strain on iOS and iPadOS 17

  1. Go to Settings.
  2. Go to Screen Time.
  3. Select Screen Distance.
  4. The first time you open this, a notification explaining what the feature does will pop up. Select Continue.
  5. You’ll get further details on how Screen Distance works. Read this and select Continue.
  6. Tap the slider on the right to turn Screen Distance on if it isn’t already on.

Now you can go ahead and use your phone as normal. If it detects that you’re holding the phone too closely (any less than 12 inches from your face) for (in our tests) about four minutes, you’ll see a message that says, “iPhone is Too Close.” Move your arm or head further away to a safer distance, and a checkmark will appear on the screen to confirm that you are now viewing from a safer distance. You can tap Continue to dismiss the prompt, but if you move it closer again, the notification will pop up again.

Screen Distance is a useful tool everyone should turn on

Screen Distance is one of the new iOS 17 features I can see myself using the most. It’s a simple way to help prevent those nasty headaches you might be getting, not realizing they're from the bright screen. It can also encourage those who already suffer from near-sightedness to wear their glasses instead of holding the phone so close and squinting. It’s also a great reminder that you might be endlessly scrolling through social media and should probably take a break.

Parents with young children will also value this feature. They’ll love not having to constantly remind their kids to move the iPhone or iPad further away from their face while gaming or watching videos. The content won’t resume until the child holds the device further away and gets that checkmark. And it will continue to pop up if they move it back again. Even if parents find they still have to remind the kids to stop holding a device so closely, turning this feature on and having Apple send a warning is sweet vindication that the ‘rents were right all along.