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What Is the Long-Term Impact of Virtual Learning on Children’s Eyes?

Kids, like adults, are spending more time online. At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, many children attended school via Zoom and completed assignments online. The trend toward more screen time — whether playing games or being in touch with friends — is likely to continue even after everyone returns to the classroom. 

We already know that prolonged screen time can cause digital eye strain as well as dry eye symptoms, among other problems in children and adults. There is some indication that extended exposure to blue light may impact the development of retinal cells. However, studies on actual subjects still need to be done to establish a clear connection. 

Dry Eyes

Spending a long time in front of screens can impact how quickly our tears evaporate, because we blink around 66% less when using a computer compared to other daily activities. When tears evaporate too quickly and aren’t replenished with blinking our eyes start to feel dry and gritty. So remember to blink every few seconds to prevent your eyes from drying out!

Blue Light Exposure

Screens, such as those that appear on computers, phones and tablets emit blue light. Recent studies have shown that overexposure to blue light can damage the retinal cells at the back of your eyes. This may increase the risk of vision issues such as age-related macular degeneration which eventually leads to permanent loss of vision. 

Excess blue light has also been shown to disrupt the circadian rhythms that regulate our sleep patterns, as it tricks your internal clock into thinking that it is the middle of the day. This may lead to difficulty in falling asleep, insomnia, and daytime fatigue.

Digital Eye Strain

Nearly 60% of people who routinely use computers or digital devices experience symptoms of digital eye strain — also called computer vision syndrome. Symptoms of eye strain include eye fatigue and discomfort, dry eye, headaches, blurred vision, neck and shoulder pain, eye twitching, and red eyes. 

Taking frequent breaks from your screen can help reduce eye strain and neck, back and shoulder pain during your workday.

It is recommended to take at least one 10-minute break every hour. During these breaks, stand up, move about and stretch your arms, legs, back, neck and shoulders to relieve tension and muscle aches. 

Also, look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and gaze at a distant object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This relaxes the focusing lens inside the eye to prevent fatigue.

How to Make Virtual Learning Safer For Your Child

The following tips can lessen the impact of screens on your child’s eyes:

  • Reduce overall screen time 
  • Encourage frequent breaks
  • Use accessories that filter blue light (for example, blue light glasses)
  • Schedule regular eye exams

Make Sure Your Child Gets Routine Eye Exams

Children need comprehensive eye exams to assess the health of their eyes, correct their vision and spot potential problems which can affect learning and behavior. 

If you are concerned about the effect of virtual learning and screen time on your child’s eyes, or if you’re due for a checkup, schedule an eye doctor‘s appointment at Fusion Eye Care in Raleigh. 

Q&A

What are blue light glasses?

Blue light glasses, also known as computer glasses, effectively block the transmission of blue light emitted from devices and computer screens. They often include a coating to reduce glare to further reduce eye strain. These glasses can be purchased with or without a prescription. 

What’s the 20-20-20 rule?

If you find yourself gazing at screens all day, whether your computer, smartphone, iPad or television, you’re at risk of experiencing eye strain. So make sure you schedule frequent breaks from your screen and follow the 20-20-20 rule; every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. And while you’re at it, use this time to get up, walk around, and stretch. 

Why Are Blue Eyes More Sensitive To Light?

Did you know that blue eyes don’t contain any blue pigment? They appear blue due to how the light reacts with the structures of the iris. 

In fact, the top layer of a blue iris doesn’t contain any pigment at all. This lack of pigment is the reason that blue-eyed people may be more sensitive to bright light and have a greater need to wear sunglasses than their brown-eyed counterparts. 

Why Do Your Eyes Need Sun Protection? 

Eyes of all colors need shielding from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Exposure to UV light can contribute to the formation of short-term and long-term eye conditions such as corneal sunburn and macular degeneration. 

That’s why it’s so important to choose high-quality sunwear with 100% UV blocking lenses, and to throw on a sun hat for an added layer of protection. 

UV protection is important for individuals of all ages—especially children—who are more susceptible than adults to the sun’s harmful rays, and tend to spend more time outdoors. It is estimated that up to 80% of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV rays happens before the age of 18. 

Why are Blue Eyes More Sensitive to Light? 

Lighter colored eyes like blue, hazel and green have less of a pigment called ‘melanin’ than brown eyes do. 

Melanin helps protect the retina from UV damage and blue light, putting those with blue eyes at a higher risk of developing UV-related eye damage.

If you have blue eyes, you may have experienced this first-hand. Bright light may be uncomfortable or you may want to reach for your shades as soon as you leave the house on a sunny day.

That’s why optometrists urge blue-eyed patients to be particularly vigilant about UV protection, so as to mitigate their chances of developing eye disease and other complications. 

How We Can Help

Whether you have blue eyes or not, sunglasses are an important part of keeping your eyes healthy for a lifetime. 

At Fusion Eye Care, we’ll be happy to advise on the perfect high-quality and protective pair of sunglasses to suit your needs and personal style. 

To learn more about the eye care services we offer or to schedule an eye exam, contact Fusion Eye Care in Raleigh today!

Q&A: 

#1: Should I wear sunglasses even when it’s not sunny outside? 

Yes! You should wear your sunglasses whenever outdoors during the day, even on an overcast, winter day. UV light can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like car windows and pavement.

#2: What type of sunglasses are the most suitable for blue eyes? 

The most protective sunglasses are wraparound sunglasses that protect the eyes from every angle. You can also opt for photochromic lenses, which offer total UV protection but only become tinted when exposed to outdoor sunlight, and turn clear when you come indoors again. Your optometrist can help you choose the best lens and frame options for your needs and lifestyle. 

The Health Concerns and Health Benefits of Blue Light

Many people do not realize just how complex visible light is.

When you step outside on a sunny day, turn on an indoor light, use your computer or use any other digital device like a phone or a tablet, your eyes are exposed to different types of visible and invisible rays of light, which can have a range of effects on your eyes, including making them dry.

Many people do not realize that sunlight contains both visible and invisible rays of light. Many do not realize that sunlight is made up of a number of different colored lights, each containing a different amount of energy.

Understanding Blue Light

Sunlight is composed of red, yellow, green, orange and blue rays of light.In addition to this, each color of light ray contains a variety of shades, depending on the wavelength and energy of each individual ray of light. This is called electromagnetic radiation. When these colors are combined, you get a full spectrum of light colors that is what we refer to as sunlight or white light.

Although we are not getting into the complexities of physics, you must understand the relationship between wavelengths of light rays and the different amounts of energy each type of light contains. Light rays with short wavelengths will contain more energy than those with long wavelengths.

On the edge of the visible red light spectrum, the wavelengths are longer, which means they contain less energy. On the other hand, light on the blue end of the spectrum will have shorter wavelengths and contain more energy.

The invisible rays that are beyond the visible red area of the spectrum are referred to as infrared. Although these light rays are invisible, they produce warmth. An example of this type of light is warming lamps used to keep foods warm at a restaurant. Warming lights transmit infrared radiation. In addition to invisible infrared lighting, warming lights use visible red light to warn you that the lights are on and hot. This same technology is also used for different types of heat lamps.

Blue light rays are found on the opposite end of the light spectrum. Blue light rays emit the highest amount of energy and contain the shortest wavelengths. Blue light is sometimes referred to as violet or blue-violet light. Lights found beyond the visible light spectrum are called ultraviolet (UV) lights.

Visible blue light, just like ultraviolet blue lights, contains the highest amount of energy and offers some benefits and risks. Let’s take a look at some of the most important things that you should understand about blue light.

  1. Blue light can be found everywhere.
  2. The sky looks blue due to HEV light rays.
  3. The eyes have difficulty blocking blue light rays.
  4. Blue light exposure can increase your risk of developing macular degeneration.
  5. Blue light causes digital eye strain.
  6. After cataract surgery, it is essential that you protect your eyes from blue light rays.
  7. Blue light is not all bad.

Blue Light Filters and Protective Eyewear

If you constantly use your cell phone, tablet or computer, you need to reduce the amount of blue light that your eyes are subjected to. The best way to do this is to use a blue light filter.

These filters are available for many electronic devices, including computers, tablets, and smartphones. These filters reduce the blue light emitted from these devices without affecting the display of the device. Additionally, you can find filters made of tempered glass which will help.