Eye Health: what teachers can do to safeguard young students

One of the major concerns when integrating technology in the classroom are the potential negative effects it could have on students’ eye health. If until recently books used to be the only concern, today there is more than just font size that could play a role in causing eye strain. Here are five important steps to make sure teachers and school are taking eye health issues in consideration.

1- Prevention

The first step to make a difference in eye health is prevention. There are many different methods, here are some of the most effective ones that can be easily implemented in the classroom:

  • The computer screen should be around 28 inches from the eyes. Getting too close to the screen as well as the position of the monitor could add to eye strain.
  • Teachers could consider asking the school to replace the light bulbs in the classroom to lower watt ones. The intensity of the light around and any glare on the screen from lamps or windows could cause long term problems.
  • It is recommended to adjust display settings to make sure the resolution is as high as possible. Brightness should match the surroundings as much as possible, and in bright environment it is always recommended to apply glare reduction filters.
  • Even smaller changes like adjusting text size and colour can have a positive impact. Text should be three times larger than the smallest one can read, and black text on a white background is always preferable.

2- Know what to look for

It is very important for teachers to pay attention to their students’ habits and behaviours in class, as it allows them to immediately notice when something is wrong. When it comes to eye strain, we recommend teachers to look for these common and easy to spot early symptoms:

  • Frequent squinting when reading
  • Complaints of headaches
  • A sudden and unexplained drop in performance
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Losing place while reading and using a finger to maintain it

Learning what to look for is a fundamental step to improve young students’ health and safety in the classroom.

3- Talk to the parents

If a teacher notices any of the previously mentioned symptoms in one of their students, it’s important to contact the parents. No matter how proactive the school is at implementing prevention methods, the most effective changes are the ones students make at home. What teachers can do is recommending an eye exam and sharing some tips with the parents, to help them create a healthy environment and prevent further damage.
Early intervention can also help students whose grades are suffering, and risk falling through the cracks. It is easy to mistake eye strain symptoms with laziness and lack of effort. Dialogue between teachers and parents is essential, especially when it comes to younger children.

4- Encourage alternative activities

Technology is becoming essential in modern education, but educators shouldn’t make the mistake of using it to replace other activities. Inviting guest speakers, encouraging student to lead discussions and debates, organizing field trips, and assigning craft projects will reduce the number of hours spent in front of a screen, without reducing interest and engagement. Digital detoxes are often necessary for young students to learn not to rely exclusively on technology, but also on real life experiences and interpersonal skills.

5- Take breaks

Taking frequent breaks from technology is a great way to protect eyes and mind. Sometimes it can be hard to know our limits when we stare at a laptop, and it is important to teach students that there is a time and place for everything. When it comes to younger children, technological devices should be limited to the classroom and not allowed during recess. It is considered to be good practice to take a 20-minute break every 20 minutes of screen time.

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