When the novel coronavirus hit the world, nearly all aspects of daily life changed including the virtual switch to online classrooms and workspaces. With kids spending nearly double their screen time hours during online school, arising eye problems are concerning parents.
In addition to the significant increase of screen time for bored kids during quarantine, online school mandates around 5-6 hours per day for the average high schooler. The evenings, meant to be technology-free, are often filled with hours of homework, most of which are done online. The switch to online curriculum is steered by teachers utilizing multiple online education platforms, such as Zoom, Google Classroom, and the Google Drive, in lieu of in-person learning.
While the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a screen time of 2 hours per day, the influx of hours affects the student’s physical and mental wellbeing.
From the blue-lights reflecting off our screens, “a large number of young people and students are reporting to me with problem of eye strain, pain in eyes and brows, headaches, irritation, redness, watering, pricking sensation in eyes, fluctuating or blurring of vision,” states Dr. Sanjay Dhawan, retina specialist. Eyes are prone to dryness through eye muscle fatigue, leading to a young majority diagnosed with computer vision syndrome (CVS).
“At the end of the day, I don’t want to see another computer for a while,” comments Miriam, a student from Oakland, California, on the New York Times discussion.
The headaches on the students’ heads and eyes can evolve into a mental issue by decreased motivation, mood swings, and even signs of depression.
The computer fatigue brings a lack of focus and motivation to the desk as students feel mentally drained from the work overload. Over usage disrupts the brain from processing and retaining information, juxtaposing the concept of online learning. Mood swings are apparent through younger students as parents display concerns for their children’s wellbeing.
“They are already cooped up at home and are getting cranky and restless. After their online classes I find they are unable to focus on their work and suffer from headaches,” parent Baljinder Singh says.
With over 60% of parents concerned about the risks of increased screen time, doctors recommend parents to monitor their children’s screen time through set limits, ensuring the eyes are not overworked by both educational and entertainment means. They also recommend the purchase of blue-light filter glasses which can prevent eye strains by reflecting the harmful light that many students have fallen ill against.
As the world continues into the uncharted pandemic, students will have to withstand the countless hours of bright screens and Zoom classes, revealing another detrimental consequence of COVID-19.