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Online Degrees

Part of Western Governors University

January 5, 2022

Online University Experience

How to Lessen Screen Fatigue: An Online Student’s Guide

The benefits of online degree programs are hard to ignore: they’re affordable, they allow students to work part- or full-time while earning their degrees, they provide a feasible higher education option for parents, and they allow students to earn their degrees on their own schedule, at their own pace, and work on their own digital devices or smartphone. All in all, online degree programs are ideal for many modern lifestyles. One of the most important advantages of online programs is digital classes in lieu of in-person lectures, but with the convenience of logging in rather than going to campus comes some challenges. These challenges might include technical issues, lack of motivation, poor time management, and screen fatigue, to name a few. Online learning is a great option if you learn tools to manage these challenges. Read on to learn more about screen fatigue and how you can lessen its effects.

What is Screen Fatigue?

One of the major challenges of online schooling is screen fatigue, also known as digital eyestrain or computer vision syndrome. Screen fatigue can result from extended periods of computer use. It can cause eye fatigue, physical discomfort, and vision problems that worsen with increased screen time. When you consider that the average American worker spends at least seven hours a day looking at a computer screen, it’s no wonder that many suffer from eyestrain. 

Looking at digital screens makes your eyes work harder than if you were reading something in print, like a book or magazine. Digital letters are usually less sharply defined because they’re created by combining pixels, which are less bright at the edges of the letters, creating less contrast and forcing eye strain. Research has found that people blink less while they are looking at screens, leading to drier eyes, in addition glare or reflections on the screen can make words more difficult to read. Moreover, the typical viewing distance and angle used during computer work can put serious strain on your back and neck. What results from the visual and physical demands of looking at screens is the onset of vision discomfort or problems. 

While there is speculation that excessive amounts of blue light, which is emitted from the screens of digital devices, might have a lasting effect on eye health, there is no conclusive research to show that it causes long-term harm, eye disease, or retina damage.

What are Symptoms of Screen Fatigue?

Screen fatigue is quite common, which is why you should be aware of the main symptoms: 

  • Eyestrain 
  • Headaches 
  • Blurred vision 
  • Dry eyes 
  • Neck and shoulder pain 

In most instances, symptoms of eye strain occur when visual demands exceed the visual abilities of the person in question. The more uninterrupted time a person spends staring at a screen, the more likely they are to develop these symptoms. 

How Does Screen Fatigue Impact Your Education?

Although screen fatigue itself is not dangerous, it is something that can be problematic if left unchecked, especially for a student in an online degree program. If you’re experiencing dry eyes, headaches, impaired vision, double vision, or neck and shoulder pain, that can affect your ability to focus on your studies and cause you to fall behind. Even worse, the discomfort it causes can have a negative impact on your overall physical and mental well-being, which is why it’s important to fight screen fatigue before it gets out of control.

How to Fight Screen Fatigue

Preventing eye strain and screen fatigue is a hurdle for every online student. Luckily, there are several ways to approach eye care and alleviate the affects of eye strain:

  • Work in a brightly lit room: Decreasing the contrast between your computer screen and your surroundings puts less strain on your eyes.
  • Take frequent breaks: Screen fatigue results from extended periods of time staring at screens, so make sure to break up that time the best you can.
  • Buy blue light glasses: Blue light has shorter wavelengths and higher energy than other colors, which could demand more work from your eyes. While there is no conclusive evidence that blue light has adverse effects, there is enough speculation to warrant caution. 
  • Use light and brightness settings: You do not need to have your computer screen backlight turned up to the maximum setting. For the sake of your eyes, dial it back to a lower setting.
  • Maintain good posture: Slumping down in your chair during hours of working is easy to do. Try to stay aware of your posture to relieve pressure from your neck and back.
  • Use the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
  • Take care of your eye health: If you are experiencing excessive symptoms, you should consult a doctor. This will entail an eye exam and, in some cases, a prescription for glasses or contact lenses. For milder cases, eye drops could do the trick.

Online degree programs are an excellent route for gaining a higher education, especially if you want to avoid taking out loans, require flexibility, or are looking to enter one of these occupations. Like any form of education, online schooling has its upsides and downsides. On the one hand, it’s extremely convenient and works for many different lifestyles; on the other hand, it comes with some challenges. If students employ strategies for alleviating screen fatigue, online degree programs are a smart option.

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