`In the world of Covid-19 online learning has been the prevalent method of education. Dozens of articles have been written about the effects online learning has had on students. Many of the conclusions have been less than positive. Anxiety, depression, isolation and sleep disorders have been cited. Students of all ages have been affected.
Kindergarten students can find online learning particularly difficult. Much of the learning focuses on socialization and learning co-operation. Just keeping them focused is a challenge. When parents can be engaged with the process it does make things easier.
University students are also having a hard time. The university experience is not just about academics, but about growth and trying new things. Under normal circumstances, many students would be away from home for the first time. For them, having increased independence is part of the process. Some courses also need hands-on experience. Another consequence of students studying from home is that many don’t live in the same time zone as their institution. This is causing issues with sleep patterns. Students may also become more sedentary as they are not walking to and from classes.
Online learned has increased screen time which can cause eyestrain. This can be referred to as Digital Eye Strain or DES. The effects are higher when two or more devices are used or when wearing contact lenses. Nearsightedness is on the rise. Younger children (6 – 9) may be more at risk. Prolonged staring at the screen causes us to blink less, about 10 times per minute instead of 20 times per minute, and the muscles around the eyes to wear out. Headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes are all results of increased screen time.
There are some steps that can be taken to combat the symptoms of increased screen time. One is the 20 -20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes shift your eyes away from the screen and look at something at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Set a timer if you are the type that gets so caught up in what they are working on that you forget. Having good posture and keeping the screen at arm’s length and eye level can also help. Avoiding dark rooms or very bright areas is also good.
Blue light from the screen reduces the production of melatonin. While this may well be helpful during the day, it can make falling asleep more difficult. It is a good idea to turn off your devices about 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed. Daily fresh air and exercise is another way to alleviate the negative effects of too much screen time.
Online learning has presented challenges but by utilizing a few simple steps the challenges can be minimized.