Back To School : Dr. Niederkorn's Thoughts For The Week

Back To School

by Michael Niederkorn on 08/17/20

As our kids get ready to go back to school, we are all having to deal with different difficulties and fears. Some of the children are staying at home in a virtual environment, while the older university students are having to adjust to this new reality of virtual/in-person learning.

Most of the local ISDs are starting virtual, and then re-assessing after Labor Day. A few are allowing students on campus immediately. I suppose we will see how this plays out in the next several weeks.

Either way, many students and parents are finding themselves trapped behind the screen for longer hours. We know that increased screen time creates some visual challenges. When performing these computer tasks, our eyes have to focus, converge, and accurately and rapidly move across the screen.

Many studies have been able to demonstrate that short interval breaks while doing computer/monitor/phone/ipad activities can be very helpful in reducing the amount of fatigue the eyes suffer. Fortunately for us, the fibers of the eyeball muscles are incredibly strong and accurate, but they can begin to fail when stressed to certain limits.

I recommend the 20/20 Rule - For every 20 minutes of detailed near activity, you should take a 20 second break and try to look 20 feet away (or close your eyes). It seems to be more effective to take small interval breaks more frequently than, for instance, working 3 hours and taking a 30 minute lunch. Applying this technique may help reduce the fatigue associated with extended screen usage.

There is also a lot of interest in blue light exposure from our electronic devices. It has been shown that blue wavelength light reduces melatonin release (a chemical that helps us regulate sleep) and may disrupt sleep patterns. In children, it is critical that they get plenty of sleep so try to keep them off devices after the sun sets to ensure they get their needed rest. Easier said then done, I know.

I hope you are all doing well, and I will see you soon!

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Dr. N's Thoughts on Eyeballs & Life