Education June 19, 2020
Online & digital classes cause various eye-related problems, a major health concern for children
Most of the students are now undertaking online classes due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. This is indeed a cause of worry for many parents because children spend extra hours on mobile phones and laptops. Experts also speak of the hazardous effects that digital classes can have on eyes of young children. Parents must take precautions and measures to ensure safety of the child’s eyes.
Ten year old Vihaan* (name has been changed) from Chennai is having regular online sessions from school. His teachers have confirmed that the system is going to stay for long due to ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. Vihaan loves it. He can stay at home and has also got his new mobile so that he can attend classes regularly. But his parents are worried about the excessive time that their son has been spending on the digital space. Their main concern is how all this is going to affect his health, especially eyes. Just like Vihaan’s parents, there are thousands of parents who are now worried about the grave concerns of online teaching. Eye strain from digital classes is indeed a major health concern for students.
The hazards of digital/online classes
Needless to say, excessive usage of mobile phones, laptops or any other gadgets can affect children in many ways. This can be mental and physical. Eye strain is one amongst the most common problems. Some of its symptoms include excessive blinking, tearing, frequent rubbing of the eyes, dry eyes, headaches from eye strain and even tiredness. Parents must be extremely watchful and careful on how the child spends time online.
Most of the classes, especially for children above class 8, goes on for long hours. Parents must cut short their time spent on video games, TV and other gadgets. Only a strict no works with most children!
Dr Sindhu, an ophthalmologist, is currently doing her research in the USA. Sindhu talks about the deep and negative effects of online classes.
When children use computers, their eyes have to focus and refocus all the time. Their eyes react to images that are continually moving, shifting focus and changing. These send rapidly varying images to the brain. All these require a lot of effort from their eye muscles. To make things worse, the screen has contrast, flicker and glare. They tend to blind far less frequently when using a computer or mobile. It causes the eyes to dry out and blur vision periodically while working. It causes eye strain and discomfort- Dr Sindhu, Ophthalmologist.
She further adds, “Irritation, burning sensation, redness, blurred vision and double vision are some of the common symptoms. Some children experience this throughout for a longer time. There are many other health hazards related to spending excessive time online”.
Parents are undoubtedly worried. But they also realize that there are no options to go ahead with their child’s education. The only way is to cut short screen time.
Subeena’s son Ishan who is in class 1 is currently undertaking online classes. Subeena says that Ishan’s teachers are extremely understanding.
“Initially, his classes started off for thirty minutes and it was then extended for some more time. They even give 15 minutes breaks in between. The best part is that all teachers are very understanding too. Right now, I’am not too worried about my son’s eye strain because his classes are being balanced”, she says.
MS Aslam, a health and safety engineer’s five-year-old son attends online classes regularly. “Our lifestyles have changed due to coronavirus pandemic. Hand washes, sanitisers and face masks have become part of our lives. Similarly, online classes for children are also part of the shift. This is all part of ergonomics and hence teachers must also be careful about the time children spend in front of mobiles and laptops. This is a joint effort where school authorities and parents must work together to minimise screen time”.
Dr Devika Kumar, who has a five-year-old daughter taking online classes says, “Yes, I’am worried. But do we have another option? At this point, parents must be careful of the time that the kids spend in front of gadgets. I have reduced the screen time for my daughter. She spends lesser time watching cartoons or playing video games”, she says.
Parents can encourage healthy lifestyle habits for their children which in turn will benefit their eyes too. For instance, rest the eyes, making sure your child has lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, scheduling for regular eye checkups and encouraging other healthy eye habits are some of them.
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