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How Vision Affects Virtual Learning for School-Age Children

Healthy screen time is one challenge of distance learning
Healthy screen time is one challenge of distance learning

Many schools have made the switch to virtual learning or a hybrid mix of online and in-person lessons during the new coronavirus pandemic. Attending classes online can raise unique challenges for school-age children in terms of attention and vision. A pair of prescription safety glasses could reduce eye fatigue and prevent headaches caused by extended exposure to the blue light emitted by screens. Learn more about a few of the potential effects on vision when children spend most of their school hours on computers.

Correct Farsightedness for Clearer Focus

Young children may have pediatric hyperopia or mild farsightedness. Many kids can use their eye muscles to achieve sufficient focus to see teachers, boards and work on the desk in front of them in standard school environments without excessive eye strain.

Virtual learning moves important focal points closer to young students. The prolonged focus in an intermediate-to-short distance range needed for computer work, reading and writing may call for corrective lenses. Make sure to get a current prescription from an optometrist or consult with an ophthalmologist before ordering glasses with corrective lenses.

A child may not need to continue wearing prescription glasses after resuming in-person learning in a conventional classroom. In the short term, eyewear that reduces eye strain may improve a child’s performance by making the virtual learning experience more comfortable.

Screen Fatigue Is an Important Factor

The hours school-aged children spend staring at screens can add up, particularly if a child also watches television, movies or plays video games for fun and relaxation. It can be helpful to teach kids eye exercises to reduce digital eye strain that could result from long hours of uninterrupted focus on backlit screens.

Many eye safety experts recommend the 20-20-20 Rule. Introduce children to the practice of shifting their focus away from a screen to an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes to release eye muscle tension. Students can also try closing their eyes for 10 seconds to reduce strain and increase moisture.

Virtual learners may also benefit from basic awareness of their blinking rate. When computer or device users are focused on a screen, their rate of blinking may go down from about 20 blinks-per-minute to just six to eight blinks-per-minute. Maintaining moist eyes by blinking frequently can also reduce the symptoms of eye strain.

Prescription Safety Glasses Can Reduce Strain

Safety glasses with blue light blocking lenses can benefit children who wear prescription glasses and those who do not need vision correction. The clear or lightly tinted lenses in glasses designed to filter blue light reduce brightness and glare and increase contrast and clarity. This eyewear can be worn during school hours, while working on assignments or during recreation time spent looking at screens.

The effects of blue light on children may go beyond eye strain during and after virtual lessons. Some specialists suggest that blue light can disrupt circadian rhythms that balance sleeping and waking, particularly if children work on homework assignments late in the evening, watch television or movies or engage in other forms of on-screen entertainment. Glasses with prescription or non-prescription lenses that block blue light may reduce eye strain-related headaches and other symptoms of computer vision syndrome

Depending on a child’s vision needs, casual or lifestyle prescription glasses for kids could be suitable for vision correction. This eyewear may be available with options for blue light blocking lenses. As students return to school in hybrid or full-time arrangements, prescription safety glasses or goggles that have a facial seal may be helpful for reducing eye exposure to aerosolized respiratory particles or direct contact that could spread the virus that causes COVID-19.

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