Whether students are attending class in person, virtually or a hybrid version of both, there’s one thing everyone has in common: A lot more education is happening digitally. Screens are a valuable tool in education, but they also can have health implications, including stress on the eyes, dealing an inevitable blow to eye health.
Students of all ages are spending more time on computers, tablets and phone screens in general, but COVID-19 has accelerated this use. In recent months, screen time for kids has increased by 500 per cent as virtual learning was introduced and parents continue to work from home. This is having a direct impact on eye health.
Fortunately, there are simple ways families can support eye health and position students for success no matter what school shapes up to be this year:
Take breaks and set limits
Have a family meeting to get everyone on board for following the 20/20/20 rule. For every 20 minutes you are using a screen you need to take at least 20 seconds to look away at something that is at least 20 feet away. This allows the eyes to rest and refocus, helping to prevent strain. If everyone is working at the same time in the house, you could ring a bell or play a song at these intervals as an eye rest reminder.
In addition to these mini breaks, take larger breaks to more thoroughly relieve eyes. This is especially important for children’s eyes that are still growing. For every hour working or playing on a screen, take a 5- to 10-minute break to leave the area and let the eyes rest. Perhaps take a walk or grab a snack before returning to studies.
Wear blue light blocking glasses
The blue light emitted from digital screens can be particularly harsh on eyes, plus it can have a negative impact on sleep patterns. The brain registers blue light as daytime, so it’s especially important to be aware of screen time before bed. Shut off screens at least an hour before bedtime to ensure kids fall to sleep efficiently and get deep, restorative rest.
Beyond limiting evening screen time, you can help filter harsh lights with blue light blocking glasses. These are sometimes called computer glasses because they have no prescription but look like normal glasses. Strive to have students always wear these glasses while using a device. If that’s not possible, research blue light blocking software and apps.
Eat for eye health
What you eat can help support eye health by providing the body essential nutrients to support vision like lutein. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant that plays a key role in shielding eyes from damaging light. Dietitian and nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner shares nutritious foods that can help boost eye health amid virtual learning – green leafy vegetables like kale or spinach are high in lutein content, as are eggs, which contain 38% more lutein compared to ordinary eggs. Lutein found in eggs is also more easily absorbed by the body than leafy greens. Just remember to eat the whole egg since lutein is found in the egg yolk.
One of the key things you can do to help reduce eye strain and fatigue while working on computers is to adjust the display settings of your computer. Here’s what you need to do:
Brightness: Adjust the brightness of the display so as to match it with the level of brightness of the room where you are working. To check, take a look at the white background of any web page and see if appears as a light source. If yes, it is too bright; if it appears grey, it may be too dark.
Text size and contrast: Adjust the text size and contrast for comfort, especially when reading or composing long documents. Usually, black print on a white background is the best combination for comfort. Enhance the size of alphabets to suit your own comfort level.
Color temperature: This is a technical term used to describe the spectrum of visible light emitted by a colour display. Blue light is short-wavelength visible light that is associated with more eye strain than longer wavelength hues, such as orange and red. Reducing the colour temperature of your display lowers the amount of blue light emitted by a colour display for better long-term viewing comfort.
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