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How to Protect Students’ Eyes from Excessive Computer Use

For all the complaining they are capable of, kids are often tougher than we give them credit for.

Kids can scrape a knee, brush it off, and get right back to playing, all for the sake of not missing the remainder of the kickball game.

There are instances, though, where this toughness can get kids into trouble. They may not realize that something that’s slightly uncomfortable (carrying a 40-pound backpack, say) is actually bad for their health.

When using computers for extended periods of time, students are likely to ignore discomfort, especially if they are engaged in what they are working on.

One place where we see this most often is with the effect that computer use has on one’s eyes. Many adults are also guilty of using computers to an extent that can negatively affect their eyesight, but students are even more susceptible to this.

Read on to find out why and how you can help your students protect their eyes during computer use.

Why Students Are Especially at Risk

While excessive computer use can wreak havoc on anyone’s eyesight, it is especially threatening for children for a number of reasons:

  • Kids tend to zone in more on the computer screen than adults. They often get so involved in what they’re looking at that they forget to blink.
  • If students are using computers that were set up for adult use (either at home or at school) or were set up improperly, it can cause additional eye strain if students are looking up at their computer screen.
  • In many ways, kids are more resilient than adults. One such way? They tend to ignore discomfort and may not take the necessary steps to change the situation.
  • Many students accept blurry vision when staring at a screen, thinking that is what happens to everyone when using a computer.

Our Recommendation: The 20-20-10 Rule

As teachers, it is our responsibility to make sure that students learn appropriate guidelines for computer use. When it comes to how to protect their vision, our recommendation is the 20-20-10 rule.

This easy to remember rule can be implemented in your classroom as a standard part of computer use. Eye doctors recommend that every 20 minutes your students should take their eyes off of the computer screen and look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 10 seconds. These periodic breaks from staring at the screen can reduce the risk of focusing fatigue that can cause nearsightedness in children.

20-20-10 rule: Every 20 mins have your students look at something 20 ft away for 10 seconds.Tweet it

Students won’t likely abide by the 20-20-10 rule if left to their own devices, so it’s important that as a teacher you invest students in the rule and create structures to help them follow it. Consider the following ideas:

1. Explain the dangers to students

Brief students on why it is important to rest your eyes every once in awhile during computer time with an analogy. Like riding a horse through a desert, bad riders may ignore the horse’s needs and keep riding until their horse can’t take it anymore and collapses. Good riders pay attention to the needs of their horse and let it rest regularly. This way the horse will be able to go further in the long-term.

2. Put up something to look at during rest periods

Put a fun poster on the far end of the room or perhaps even on the ceiling so students have something specific to focus on for their 10-second break.

3. Set a timer

When computer time starts, set an alarm for 20 minutes and repeat as needed. Set the expectation that when the time goes off everyone’s eyes must be directed towards the poster or another designated point.

4. Make a game of it!

Ask students to find something in the poster and shout out their answer. This will get everyone involved, and if the solution is sufficiently difficult this should take up the full 10 seconds.

In addition to helping students protect their eyes while at the computer, you also want to encourage safe typing posture so that students acquire safe typing habits across the board. Check out our previous post here for ideas on how to help students protect their neck and back while sitting at the computer.

If you can get students accustomed to these habits early on, they’ll be much more likely to practice safe computer use later in life.

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