Ophthalmologists worried about impact of remote learning

ByMartha R. Camara

Apr 13, 2021

Joseph Gardner admits he would definitely prefer to be outside.

“I like to ride my bike and play basketball,” says Gardner.

Instead, the 12-year-old spent a sunny morning indoors taking a maths test in his family’s living room. This year, the sixth-grader is spending three days a week at school and the other two are learning remotely from home.

“It was really hard to concentrate, and it was really difficult,” he said as he started the test.

Gardner says he means that figuratively and literally. “(My eyes) hurt a lot when you’re on screen for six hours,” he said. “I’m quite tired.”

What do you want to know

  • Dr. Gregory Pinto, a longtime ophthalmologist in upstate New York, says he’s starting to see a slow increase in young patients with eye strain
  • Pinto says increased time spent in front of a computer while students learn at home is believed to be one of the main causes
  • Pinto says ophthalmologists fear it could lead to increased myopia down the road

Joseph’s mother, Sarah Buschynski, says she also noticed he was struggling more with his eyes.

“I think there’s a lot more screen time, where we have to tell kids to just come down and be kids. Go do something else, like play outside or some kind of activity that doesn’t require you to sit in front of a screen,” Buschynski said.

Buschynski also took his son back to see his eye doctor, Dr. Gregory Pinto.

The longtime ophthalmologist says he’s starting to see a slow increase in younger patients with eye strain, which could lead to greater concerns in the future.

“Eye strain doesn’t cause damage to the eye, but what we’re looking at is whether staring at a computer or a book for an extended period of time can cause people to become more nearsighted,” Pinto said. , the practice of which is ongoing. Saratoga Springs.

Pinto is also Vice President of Eyes NY, a newly formed consortium of more than a dozen local clinicians. He says most of the doctors in the group are going through the same thing in their practice.

“No pun intended, we definitely need to keep an eye on this because one to two years of distance learning is a lot of time staring at screens up close,” Pinto said. “Hopefully I won’t see a dramatic increase in myopia in the next few years.”

In addition to investing in a pair of blue light glasses, which should reduce the impact of screen time on sleep cycles, Pinto recommends spending more time outdoors and taking frequent breaks to avoid tension.

“I tell people to obey the 20-20-20 rule,” Pinto said. “Every 20 minutes look for 20 seconds at something at least 20 feet away, just to give your concentration muscles a break.”

More time outside to do what he loves is a prescription Gardner seems more than happy to commit to.

“We upgraded the basketball hoop so it could be more outside, got some sidewalk chalk,” Buschynski said, as she watched her son walk the family dog ​​in the front yard. . “It feels good to get some fresh air.”