Virtual education has become the new norm as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to limit in-person socialization and group gatherings. Many schools across the country are holding online lessons and managing classes and assignments remotely. 

As a result, children are spending more time using digital devices than ever. Pre-COVID, children and teens were already spending an average of more than seven hours a day on phones, television and computers. When you add in multiple hours each day for virtual classroom activities, that is a whole lot of screen time. 

Our eyes didn’t evolve to stare at screens for multiple hours every day. A recent analysis found that increased screen time can lead to lower language development, while other studies have linked phone, tablet and computer usage with lower cognitive skills, behavioral challenges, sleep difficulties and more. 

Here are five important “screen hygiene” tips for students attending virtual school.

  1. Take frequent eye breaks. Experts recommend looking away from the screen for at least 20 seconds every 20 minutes. 
  2. Use a blue light filter. Blue light filters make screen light softer on the eyes and limit sleep disruption caused by bright lights. 
  3. Stretch. Sitting slouched at a screen for multiple hours can contribute to bad posture, lethargy and fatigue. Taking short breaks every hour can prevent muscle soreness and stiffness. 
  4. Limit screen time after school. Instead of reaching for a cellphone or TV remote after virtual classes are over, substitute another activity such as reading or playing outside. 
  5. Wear proper eyewear. Students who need glasses or contact lenses may sit closer to the screen if they are unable to properly see it. Make sure screens are clean and students have any necessary visual aids so they can maintain at least one foot’s worth of distance from the screen.