The home desktop or sitting in bed with a laptop are just a few ways students this semester are attending classes. Although, with most learning being remote, many students may struggle with extended screen times.
Dr. Erika Radford, assistant medical director at Texas Tech Student Health Services, said the recommendation for screen time is two hours or less, which is not much when considering online school.
“It’s kind of impossible to stick to two hours a day,” Radford said.
However, Radford said there are ways to help ease the strain eyes may face with extended screen time.
First, it is important to take a break every hour, get up and stretch and look away from the screen to rest the eyes, Radford said. Eye strain is a big cause of headaches in the student population and also can lead to temporary blurry vision.
Additionally, Radford said it is important to have good posture when using a computer or laptop.
“You want to have a good steady environment if you happen to be on the computer for several hours a day,” Radford said.
Blue light glasses are one tool Radford said she suggests if an individual suffers from migraines due to extended screen time. These glasses help block the blue light being emitted from computers, phones, tablets and other electronic devices. Additionally, they help with sleep regulation.
“The glasses are something it doesn’t hurt to try, but it can help you, and if it helps then that’s great,” Radford said.
Night mode on computers, phones and tablets do the same thing as these blue light glasses, Radford said.
Along with the number of hours of screen time, a student's posture may be something to think about when taking a lot of online classes.
Overtime, there will be back pain issues, neck pain issues and headaches related to posture if it is not consistently fixed as an individual is sitting at their desk, Radford said.
When using a computer or laptop, having a desk that is a good height or a stand desk is preferable, Radford said. It also is important to have both feet on the floor.
Matthew Ellison, online instructor of political science at Tech, said he has 12 online classes, and each has 260 to 270 students. The main thing he recommends to help limit screen time as a student is to work ahead.
Most students do not look at assignments until the day before or the day of the deadline, Ellison said.
“That is a lot more work,” Ellison said, “Try to do stuff in advance, even if it’s just a week.”
Working ahead can be beneficial, especially if there are technical issues, and it also helps limit school-related screen time, Ellison said.
However, Ellison said he does have some concerns about how much time students are spending on their computers, tablets and phones. There is a fear that students may feel isolated.
“I am concerned about if students are struggling with mental health," he said. "It’s kind of hard to provide guidance."
Not being able to reach and have that personal guidance, whether it is just to provide advice on how to limit screen time or something deeper, is the biggest concern, Ellison said.
Rachel Coyle, a first-year graduate student from San Antonio studying speech pathology at the Tech Health Sciences Center, said she feels like her screen time has been increased. Her classes are done via Zoom, and her homework is done online as well.
Professors assign many simulations and training online not realizing how much screen time it is creating for their students, Coyle said. Students have increased screen time just by being home.
“I don’t need to be doing anything on a screen when I’m hanging out with actual people,” Coyle said.
Taking notes on paper and making sure to stay off phones when with friends are good techniques to help limit screen time, Coyle said.