How To: Protect your eyes and body during online school

Oct. 18, 2020, 6:26 p.m. | By Katalina Li | 1 year ago

A SCO guide on alleviating aches and pains from sitting in front of a screen all day

As online school goes into full swing, students and teachers are suffering the health consequences of sitting in front of a screen all day. Complaints of eyes straining, backs hurting, and feeling sore all around are more common than ever. Thus, it’s crucial that everyone takes the time to protect our bodies and minds. Just doing a few exercises and stretches can go a long way, and they can help with both physical pain and mental stress. 

Protecting your eyes

Staring at a screen for a long period causes eye fatigue, eye strain, and a plethora of other problems. According to WebMD, doctors now have a name for this: Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS). 

CVS is caused by a lack of eye movement: when you stare at a screen for a long time, your eyes don’t blink as much, leading to dryness and itchiness. Your eyes tend to follow the same movements constantly (i.e. staring at a teacher’s white board during math class), causing strain on the eye muscles. CVS also leads to headaches, fatigue/exhaustion, and dizziness. 

One way to give your eyes a break is to follow the 20-20-20 rule, which has been recommended by the American Optometric Association. “For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a digital device or computer screen, you should look at something else that is 20 feet away for a period of 20 seconds,” experts from NVISION Centers write

There are also simpler eye exercises you can do: tracing a figure eight using your eyes, moving your thumb back and forth while focusing on it, or just closing your eyes and applying pressure with your palms. 

What about the device itself? Lately, more and more people have invested in blue light glasses, which have lenses that block harmful blue light that come from screens. However, blue light glasses might not be as helpful as they sound. According to an article by Medical News Today, we shouldn’t be relying on blue light glasses too much. “Eye doctors suggest that eye fatigue, headaches, and poor sleep may be associated with computer vision syndrome instead of blue light exposure,” Dr. Jessica Caporuscio writes. 

There isn’t just one single cure for CVS. Alleviating eye strain requires a lifestyle change and making good habits of following these exercises daily. Next time you have a long day of online school ahead of you, try following the 20-20-20 rule a few times or doing a few eye exercises during and in between classes! 

Photo: Good posture is crucial during online learning (Image courtesy of Maya Frey).

Protecting your body

Sitting at a desk all day is bound to leave us cramped and sore, and good posture is key here. According to Frank J. D'ambrosio from the Southern California Orthopedic Institute, bad sitting posture is especially damaging to our bodies. “The sitting position is where most of us get into trouble with poor postural habits. This is especially true when driving or using a computer,” D’ambrosio writes. 

Bad posture can lead to skeletal problems, neck and back pain, and even affect breathing and digestion. Multiple medical sources, including MedlinePlus, Harvard Health and WebMD have all issued guides for maintaining good posture. 

Here are a few tips for good sitting posture: 

  • Make sure your back is supported by a good chair
  • Try to sit at a 90 degree angle and sit straight
  • Keep your knees bent at a 90 degree angle too
  • Your feet should touch the floor
  • Relax your shoulders
  • Stretch often!

As for neck pain from looking down at a screen, sophomore Celine Wu recommends using a laptop stand. “I have a stand for my laptop which makes it at an angle so the screen is higher,” Wu says. Elevating your screen to eye level keeps your neck straight and helps with posture. 

In general, it’s a good idea to get up and walk around between classes to avoid muscle cramps. Dr. Laura Maphis, a psychologist from Geisinger Medical Center, recommends exercising as much as possible. “If you’re stuck in your house, take time to move around a little. There are plenty of free exercise videos you can do right at home and free trials to apps you can download to your phone,” Maphis says. 

Not only does exercising help with physical health, it also releases endorphins that might help manage stress and could potentially relieve any quarantine anxiety you might be feeling. 

As we continue to adapt to online school and being in front of a screen all day, it’s important to take care of ourselves too. Be mindful of your eyes, body and posture, and don’t forget to take frequent breaks. You can do this! 

Last updated: Oct. 18, 2020, 6:29 p.m.

Tags: online school posture eyes

Katalina Li. Hi there! I'm Katalina (she/her) and I'm a junior. When I'm not writing articles, I'm usually binge-watching Gordon Ramsay shows, drawing Studio Ghibli characters, or making piano covers for my YouTube channel :) More »

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