The COVID-19 pandemic forced many students across the country to transition from the classroom to virtual learning, relying on computers to stay connected with teachers and complete assignments. This, in turn, led to an increase in screen time, making students more vulnerable to eye problems associated with digital eye strain.
All digital devices emit what’s referred to as blue light – a low wavelength, high-energy light that may damage eyes over time. According to a recent UnitedHealthcare Vision Screen Time Report, the most common symptoms from excessive blue-light exposure include dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, sleep disruption and reduced productivity. The report, developed in collaboration with Eyesafe, found that some doctors are particularly concerned about children because their eyes are still developing and absorb more blue light than adults, putting them at a greater risk for damage.
To help support overall eye health during e-learning, UnitedHealthcare Vision donated a combined $100,000 to five school districts to help purchase devices with blue-light blocking technology. Those districts include Cleveland Metro Schools, Dallas Independent School District, DeSoto Parish School Board (LA), Seminole County Public Schools (FL) and Green Bay Area Public Schools (WI).
This technology helps prevent much of the blue-light from these devices from reaching the eyes, without lowering the visibility of the display. The donation is part of the UnitedHealthcare Vision Children’s Eye Care Program, which focuses on children’s eye health and supporting the well-being of young people as they spend more time learning remotely.
“Digital eye strain due in part to increased screen time is becoming a more significant issue for many Americans, including professionals working remotely and students engaged in distance learning,” said Dr. Scott Edmonds, chief eye care officer, UnitedHealthcare Vision. “We are taking a comprehensive approach to help our more than 20 million vision members and Americans nationwide to help reduce their exposure to blue light, enhancing our whole-person approach to health benefits and vision care.”
Educators with Green Bay Area Public Schools in Wisconsin said the support came at an important time, as some of their students are still learning remotely. In addition to laptops, the grant helped the district buy glasses with blue-light blocking technology, helping to support roughly 1,800 students.
“Without the support of UnitedHealthcare Vision, this purchase wouldn’t have been possible,” said Joshua Patchak, the executive director of technology and information for Green Bay Area Public Schools. “One parent said her child struggled with headaches in the past, due to computer use, and she wished he had access to this blue-light blocking technology sooner.”
As remote learning continues for many students, here are three tips to help reduce digital eye strain:
- Keep computer screens at least 30 inches away from your eyes, and consider using larger screens and font sizes whenever possible.
- Practice the 20/20 rule – every 20 minutes, take 20 seconds and look at something 20 feet away.
- Doctors recommend scheduling regular eye exams for children to help encourage healthy vision. A child’s first comprehensive eye exam should occur between 6 months and 12 months and at least twice before entering the first grade.
For additional information on children’s eye health during the pandemic, click here.