Most students are now taking online classes owing to the ongoing pandemic, spending extra hours on their mobile phones and laptops. Obviously, given the consequences of staring at the screen, parents are concerned.
With the increase in the use of electronic gadgets, or as some call it screen time, many children experience a pervasive threat of digital eye strain.
Dr Kasu Prasad Reddy, chief surgeon and founder, MaxiVision Super Specialty Eye Hospitals, and Dr Ramesh Kekunnaya, Head, Child Sight Institute, L.V. Prasad Eye Institute, talk to us about the deep and negative effects of online classes.
To begin with, doctors caution parents to take precautions and measures to ensure the safety of their kids’ eyes. “Eye strain is one amongst the most common problems,” warns Dr Kasu Prasad. “Some of its symptoms include excessive blinking, tearing, frequent rubbing of the eyes, dry eyes, headaches from eye strain and even tiredness.”
Dr Ramesh Kekunnaya points out how electronic devices emit short wavelength blue light. “These blue lights suppress the hormone melatonin, which maintains the circadian rhythm in the body,” adds the doctor. “Prolonged exposure to blue light, especially before their bedtime, can cause sleep disturbances in children. Too much screen time can also result in dry eye, headache, stress, anxiety, behavioural and mental issues.”
Screen time additions
Digital eye strain, also known as computer vision syndrome, can affect anyone who uses an excess of not only computers but also TVs, smartphones, tablets and gaming systems.
“Increased screen time increases the risk of Myopia and Myopia progression can cause stress, anxiety, loss of social skills and other behavioural issues,” says Dr Kasu Prasad, adding that the amount of time a child spends using digital devices should be proportionate to his/her age.
Dr Kasu Prasad also insists that children be allowed to take a break every forty-five minutes. “Some forms of physical training such as yoga or dance should be incorporated into the child’s schedule,” he adds.
The added pointers while staying online
Dr Ramesh also points out the important of a child’s posture when attending online classes. Insisting that a child sits on a straight-backed chair with arm rests, the doctor requests parents to ensure that the screen is placed about two feet away from the child, at eye level.
“This ensures good posture and avoids back and neck problems in the future, he explains. “Also, try to invest in larger screen devices such as desktop, laptop or TV. Another aspect to remember is room lighting, which should be good, with screen brightness at optimum. Screen protectors can be used to reduce excessive reflection.”
Dr Ramesh also insists that teachers ensure their students get appropriate breaks during the classes. “Classes must be arranged so that students get a short break every forty-five minutes and a long break of one to two hours during long sessions. It is also preferable that online classes be scheduled in the morning and afternoon hours only, ensuring that children do not use these devices in the evening and night time,” adds the doctor.
According to Dr Kasu Prasad, children using spectacles should wear them regularly, too. “They should not be allowed to sit directly in front of an AC or a fan as this will cause their eyes to dry up,” he says, adding that in case of prolonged screen usage, one can use lubricating eye drops.