How Online Schooling May Affect Your Health

Hobbs Hegedus, Staff Writer

While online school may protect a person’s health from COVID-19, it may be adversely affecting health in another way. Students are spending 7+ hours a day online, in both class and doing homework, and the symptoms of excessive screen time are on the rise among Prep students.

According to Dr. Nielson of Eyesafe, screen time has increased 60% nationwide during the pandemic. Meaning that most Americans are now using dangerous levels of screen time. With this excessive exposure to technology, many physical symptoms have begun manifesting in students. When asked about this Prep students remarked on physical changes; one of these people is Dario Cababa Wood ’21.

“Yeah, physically I’ve been feeling more… I guess strained, definitely more tired than usual” said Cababa Wood.

This sense of fatigue is common among many online learners and is associated with the other common side effects of excessive screen time: sleep deprivation and eye strain. These consequences can lead to a decrease in efficiency and performance. All this falls in line with Dr. Christopher Starr’s findings. “We call it the computer vision syndrome, and it combines both eye strain from just staring at the computers which are right in front of you for all those hours, that 13 hours or more. But it also, when we are on the computer, when we are staring at and fatiguing our eyes, we are also staring and not blinking as much. The blink rate, which is normally about 16-18 times a minute, decreases by about 50% to maybe eight blinks a minute…”

When students are forced to stare at computers all day, this fatigue is more prevalent amongst students, as everyone is using screens all day, when usually school would be a break from staring at phones or tv screens. Lack of blinking leads to the eyes becoming irritated as they are not moistened regularly. This eye strain causes both blurred vision and headaches.

To avoid this, doctors recommend routinely every 20 minutes to close your eyes for 20 seconds, or just looking at something distant. Other than blinking problems, the blue light that emanates from screens suppresses the body’s melatonin (the hormone that controls sleep) and can lead to effects similar to insomnia.

Physical effects are not the only type of health problems being reported. Mental health has also been a concern with more reported cases of depression and anxiety. Online school has been shown to cause more stress amongst students, as they have no social interaction to comfort them and create balance. A survey performed on 2,100 undergraduates from various colleges revealed that over 90% of students felt a lack of motivation.

“It’s made it a lot harder to focus,” commented John Calvert ’22, “As well as just generally not making me want to do anything.”

This lack of motivation is also a consensus amongst high school and college students as the days feel like endless repeats with little enjoyment. About a majority of the undergraduates’ interviews agreed with this and told the interviewers that they felt a lack of motivation, concentration, and were overall more stressed.

“Yeah, I would definitely say I’ve been more stressed,” said Sophia Zaboukos ’22 “It’s hard to just to look at the computer all day.”

Feelings of stress and fatigue are common during this time, apparently for both college and high school students. The exhaustion from screens and the mental health decline have both collaborated to overall decrease a student’s happiness and an increase in anxiety. So if anyone experiences any of these symptoms, they should know, they are not alone. Do not be afraid to reach out to friends, family, a psychiatrist, or a school counselor.