How Do Your Eyes Feel?

Mine are killing me, thank-you very much. I even made an appointment to see my eye doctor today! I suspect many teachers and students are feeling my same eye pain, and some other ailments, given the new world of remote learning. And there are several reasons why.

When the March 2020 quarantine arrived, the focus for that moment became how could school districts continue teaching during a what was essentially a lock-down. There was a scramble to get computers to kids; although some students were still using paper and pencil. Districts were essentially in a triage mode. Many teachers and administrators noted, they were building the remote-education plane while trying to fly it.

Summer was ladened with professional development on how to teach remotely; administrators were dancing to the ever-changing tunes of their state departments of education, the federal department of education, state departments of health, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the White House. If educators had headaches and eye strain, it could have been blamed on any number of variables. How about stress?!

But now, districts are in the thick of delivering lessons. Over the weekend, several parents told me they are beginning to hear their kids complain of headaches and eye pain. They are concerned about their children sitting in front of laptops all day, and rightly so. Now, as the pandemic dust settles, there’s a glaring unaddressed hole: Vision and learning.

I wrote a bit about the topic of vision and learning; you can find it here; and how we see, here.

The missing piece is this: School districts need to teach students (and their parents, caregivers and guardians) how to position and use laptops so as to avoid ruining their eyes. Think about it; we have children who are still growing and developing–wiring up from gross motor to fine motor control– and we’re making them sit in front of laptops for hours on end. How does this impact the learning process? How does it impact eyes, and in turn, the brain?

One even has to wonder, what kind of evolutionary changes in vision are we creating here, especially with children?

If you (or loved ones) have the symptoms listed below, you might be experiencing what’s called: CVS-Computer Vision Syndrome.

Graphic listing symptoms of Computer Vision Syndrome.

“It’s most prevalent with computers, and typically occurs when looking at a screen at arm’s length or closer,” says Dr. Matthew Gardiner, an ophthalmologist with Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary.

https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/electronic-screen-alert-avoid-this-vision-risk

The causes of Computer Vision Syndrome can vary. These are the most common factors leading to CVS.

Graphic listing what can cause Computer Vision Syndrome to occur.

Think about your own computer use. Are you on a laptop all day? How often do you text on your phone? Do you work at a dedicated desktop? How is your screen positioned?

If you have children, how are they using laptops and phones? When the school day ends, do they continue to use these devices, or is there a rule in your home that the eyes get a break and the laptops get shut down?

There are corrective measures one can make to alleviate, or eliminate, CVS problems. These ten tips come from the site: AllAboutVision.com.

Graphic listing ten steps to help relive computer eye strain.

Three of the above suggestions deserve more ink.

First, comprehensive eye exam does not mean making sure you have 20/20 vision on a Snellen Chart. It means making sure your eyes are working together. We actually see with our brains; the eyes gather the information. If the eyes don’t work together; or, if they don’t send information to the brain correctly, then there is a vision issue. I had 20/20 vision as a child–meaning I could see what I was supposed to see from 20 feet away–but because I was born with strabismus, even with corrective surgery, my eyes didn’t (and still don’t) team.

Next, resting your eyes is done with what is referred to as the 20/20/20 rule.

Graphic instructing the 20/20/20 rule.
https://www.optometrytimes.com/view/deconstructing-20-20-20-rule-digital-eye-strain

Finally, there are computer glasses. These glasses don’t have to have any vision correction in them; they merely have a photochromic tint in the lens to cut down on the blue light coming into the eye. Ophthalmologists think these kinds of glasses aren’t necessary. Optometrists swear by them. (Note: Ophthalmologists are Medical Doctors-MDs; they specialize in diseases of the eye. Optometrists, Doctors of Optometry–ODs– specialize in how the eyes function. Opticians are the folks who make your glasses!)

Everyone in my family has tint in their computer glasses to protect against blue light.

While individuals need to protect their own eyes, protecting student vision must come to the forefront for school districts. We have no idea how long students might  have to stay on remote learning. School districts supplying computers should make sure to either pre-set screens to protect eyes; or, teach everyone how to set their own screens. Districts should encourage teachers to build breaks into instruction.  Students need instructions on how to appropriately use their computers. Call it tech-use education.

Below are direct links to the information provided here.

Computer Vision Syndrome A comprehensive article from the American Optometric Association describing CVS and providing steps to take to avoid eye problems. There are detailed graphics on the best way to set up a work-station.

Electronic screen alert: Avoid this vision risk This Harvard Health letter addresses the problems and provides suggests for changing habits when using computers and cell phones.

Computer eye strain: 10 steps for relief This is the article from AllAboutVision.com which will provide the details of the corrective measures listed in the last graphic above.

And before I go, I leave you today with this fun ditty.

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