Approximately one month into the 2020-2021 school year, parents and teachers are assessing how their students are coping with the current “normal” in education. Many children are in class (social distancing, of course), while others are learning in the virtual classroom. The strange new world is not always optimal for eyes or A’s.

Educators in districts relying heavily on virtual learning are already projecting a “learning loss” that could negatively affect the educational progress they made in the 2019-2020 school year. Although more research is needed to learn the full impact of COVID-19 on learning, early observations suggest a correlation between time away from school and learning losses.

A longer-than-usual break from in-person instruction and a move to more virtual learning is also increasing the time students spend on their devices. Computers, smartphones and tablets are fantastic teaching tools in the COVID era, but constant use results in bothersome eyestrain in young pupils.

What does eyestrain look like?

Younger students often don’t speak up when they experience eyestrain. It may be a new experience for them that they don’t realize is the result of too much screen time. A child may be dealing with eyestrain if they exhibit or complain of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Burning, itching or sore eyes
  • Eyes that are drier or more watery than normal
  • Light sensitivity
  • Restlessness or an inability to concentrate

Eyestrain is rarely serious but it can be bothersome enough to interfere with a student’s ability to focus – the mind and the eyes.

How can I protect my student?

It may be difficult for the time-being to reduce the time students spend on their devices. But there are things parents and educators can do to minimize the discomfort of eyestrain.

  1. Lower the brightness and height of your student’s computer, but not so low that they must bend their neck to view it.
  2. Remind them often to blink. Provide students with an easily recognizable cue to blink, such as seeing punctuation or hearing a certain vowel sound. You can also give them a verbal reminder during pauses in instruction.
  3. Give them opportunities several times each hour to look away from the computer.
  4. If there are fans in their study space, ensure that they are not blowing in the student’s eyes.
  5. Get regular eye exams. A visit to an ophthalmologist is important to help rule out underlying vision issues that can contribute to eyestrain.

If we all work together – students, parents, teachers and medical professionals – we can provide students with the healthiest possible environment for learning.

An eye doctor from the knowledgeable, highly experienced team at Matossian Eye Associates is available for your essential eye care needs. You can schedule an appointment with an eye doctor at your convenience by calling us at (800) 708-8800 or through our website at