Virtual Learning, Vision & the 20 20 20 Rule

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Dr. Anita Brown-Dean, Optometrist, MJB Optical

Dr. Anita Brown-Dean
Optometrist, MJB Optical

Virtual or e-learning has become a frequently used term these days, with most kids signing into online classes from the comfort of their homes. Although this is seen as the best alternative for most institutions, with many teachers being able to see and monitor their pupils; there are a few things that parents should look into from their end of the webcam that may turn out to be useful to them as well.

Optometrist at MJB Optical Dr. Anita Brown-Dean says this virtual component of the new normal, that was set off by the pandemic, contributes to people becoming more predisposed to certain eye conditions. Kids and adults working from electronic devices like tablets, cellphones and computers daily are now turning up at the Eye Doctor’s office with Computer Vision Syndrome.

“Computer vision syndrome is actually a disorder where there are complex effects on the eyes and vision problems related to the amount of time, we spend on the computer today” she said.

“Patients are complaining about headaches, about eye strain they are actually complaining about dry eyes about itchy eyes, neck aches, back aches, shoulder aches.”

Identifying the causes
Brown-Dean says that many aetiology factors involved in the condition are linked to issues with the lighting around the computer, posture, and distance from the device.

“Because you’re on it for such a long period of time you tend to get a lot of dryness because blinking is a normal reflex but on the computer your blink reflex tends to slow down so people stare a lot.”

The optometrist recommends that patents use dry tears if dryness is an issue. She says because many people are sitting so close to their screens, there has been an uptick in another condition, ‘near-sightedness’.

International ophthalmological organizations have also taken these issues into consideration. It is now widely recommended that children doing virtual schooling, especially those using laptops or tablets, use a workstation.

“They really need to be sitting at a desk with a comfortable chair, the computer should be, I tell patents at least arm’s length away from you, so your third finger should be able to touch the screen. So you should not be leaning forward – this goes for children and adults” Brown-Dean said.

“The lighting of the computer should be pretty much the same light that is being given off from the computer. So, you don’t want very very bright light because you are going to get a glare on the computer you don’t want very very dim light because then you’re going to have eye strain.”

How to manage and solve it
It is always recommended to schedule a doctor’s appointment for professional assistance with eye care. However, to prevent or lessen the chance of these issues occurring, optometrists have a strategy that is widely recommended to patients suffering from Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms called the 20 20 20 rule.

“For every 20 minutes that you are on the computer you need to take a 20 second break looking 20 feet away so that gives your eyes a chance to rest and that can also decrease the nearsightedness” she said.

And with both parents and children on very busy schedules Brown-Dean says that it will be a challenge for many parents to monitor their children. She suggests however, that time is cut out whenever possible, to engage the kids in activities that do not involve them looking at screens.

“Parents now have to be very creative at home and try to think about things that they can get their children; like board games or something, or just sitting down and talking, or maybe some craft, something that’s different that takes them away from the digital, virtual world that we are in now.”

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