“I’m not able to see clearly”, “My head is hurting”, or “My eyes are watery”, are all phrases heard daily. In today’s world, these complaints are common because of staring at the screen for long periods of time. It’s agreed that devices with screens can be used as a tool for learning and exploring, but at the same time, over-exposure to bright screens isn’t good for your eyes.
The average daily screen time for 8- to 12-year-old is 4-5 hours and for teens, it’s 7-8 hours. Many adults today have to spend greater than 7-8 hours on the screen depending on their profession. With this, we can summarize that most of our daily routines are spent online, and typically the main problem is not the electronic device we’re spending too much time on. Rather it’s the type of light that it emits and how our eyes are focused on a narrow field the entire time. The light released by a screen of any electronic device is called blue light, which is proven to increase risks of degeneration of some parts of the eye, as well as causing nearsightedness and several other adverse effects.
The Effects on Virtual Students
In virtual schools such as iUniversity Prep, the coursework and classes are completely online, which means a whole lot more screen time for the students. Upon gathering information, it was found that these students experience more of the health-related effects and problems not only in their vision and behavior but also in their quality of life. A 10th grader at iUniversity Prep who spends about 6-8 hours on the screen every day says “My eyes do hurt a lot of the time. I also experience tension headaches and have trouble falling asleep.”
Another student with also about 6-8 hours of screen time daily says “I definitely experience/have experienced the effects of too much screen time. I get really dry eyes, headaches, and my neck hurts. It doesn’t affect my sleep because I try to get off of screens a few hours before bed.”
Screen Time and the Health Triangle
The health triangle is the measure of Physical, Mental, and Social Health. Not only does screen time come with medical problems, but it can also affect these 3 areas of the health triangle. Physical health is affected due to lack of physical activity with prolonged sitting on devices, making most of us live a sedentary lifestyle. This doubles the risk of getting several diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, that could otherwise be prevented with physical activity. The second component is mental health, which when affected can result in depression and mood disorders. A recent study in 2017 found that adults who spend more than 6 hours per day on the screen experience moderate depression, and extended screen hours could even lead to severe depression. The last component is social health, which is affected due to disconnection from the world and your social life. This is especially harmful to teenagers who are currently in their development phase. Your teenage years are a time when you need as much support and social life as you can get, but screen time takes a lot of socializing time away from your daily life.
While screen time for some may be inevitable, it’s always necessary to find solutions to prevent excessive amounts of screen time. As a virtual student, you need to organize your schedule and make a list of the work you need to complete that day, so you know what you’re doing, and you don’t use more of the screen than you need to. Other recreational activities on screens, such as games and watching tv shows need to be limited or split into sections so you don’t put too much pressure on your eyes and brain at a certain time. A group of iUP students has offered some suggestions for solutions to these problems. Seventh-grader Daksh says, “Turn on night mode to reduce blue light”. This is a really helpful solution because as mentioned earlier, blue light is the main cause of most vision-related problems. Sixth-grader Shivaanshi Patidar says to “take a break every 20 min for 5 minutes and do some eye exercise”. Through screen time, only one part of your eyes gets stretched, which overworks one part and leaves all the other parts stationary and eventually they get weaker. This is why taking breaks and doing eye exercises can help relax overworked eye muscles and strengthen the weaker ones. Finally, 11th grader Keeley Wilhelm mentions that “Blue light glasses help me, but they’re a pretty common tool. I try to take long breaks off of my devices, when possible, vs just taking short 5-minute breaks.”.
To summarize, screen time has its good and bad effects, almost like anything else that exists in this world. This is why you should be very particular about how you’re spending your time on a device, as well as how you’re prioritizing your schedule and other things you need to get done. It’s your decision whether you want to make screened technology a tool for learning & having fun, or a way to greatly ruin your health and quality of life. So, the next time you’re on your device, make sure you consider these factors. This will result in a much healthier and educated life as a virtual student.