Tenafly High School’s all-virtual plan requires around five hours of virtual class time a day from students. Both students and their teachers find themselves sitting in front of a screen for much longer than they are used to. Without the normal fluidity and structure of in-person learning, students at the school are developing new ways of dealing with the drawbacks of long virtual school days.
The shift back to virtual learning has been hard on everyone involved. Students have had to adapt to a new and often changing virtual schedule, with up to eight Zoom classes a day, and loads of online worksheets and digital readings. With the remainder of the school year so uncertain, students are already finding ways to deal with the long amounts of screen time and sitting, while maintaining the normal social aspects of school from afar.
Such extensive screen time places a great amount of strain on participants’ eyes. Students have reported getting an abnormal number of headaches, as well as feeling as if their eyes are burning, dry, and very tired. One method some have found helpful in dealing with this is purchasing a pair of blue light glasses. Blue light is a type of light emitted by computer screens, known to cause headaches, irritation to the eyes, and a disrupted sleep schedule, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Blue light glasses aim to reduce these effects by reflecting the blue light off of the lenses. “My eye doctor recommended blue light glasses when I went in for my annual checkup,” said Karis Cho (’23). “At first I couldn’t feel a drastic difference between my contacts and the glasses, but as I alternated between the two, I started to feel a variation.” Cho, who recommends the glasses to her peers, noticed a change in the number of headaches she got when she wore the glasses. “As I wore my contacts, I would get constant headaches, but when I wore my blue light glasses, the headaches weren’t as frequent.” These glasses can be purchased cheaply from a number of common stores, such as Walmart and Target.
Dr. Singh from the Cleveland Clinic recommends people not only purchase these glasses, but also implement a few basic protocols to reduce the strain on their eyes. Students should sit at least arm’s length away from their screens, Singh suggests. People should also get in the habit of focusing their eyes on an object at least 20 feet away from them, every 20 minutes.
A normal, in-person schedule involves students walking from class to class, and this movement, even if it’s brief, is important. The Mayo Clinic says that movement is critical for a healthy lifestyle, and that one should take frequent breaks from sitting. Students at the school have started implementing this into their passing time and after-school routines. “During the passing time in between classes, I usually end up getting up and moving around a bit. Sometimes I stretch a little or run downstairs to get a snack,” said Skyler Salk (’23). “Four minutes isn’t much of a break, but at least it’s something.”
Passing time, the start of class, and lunch normally allow students to socialize with their peers, but Zoom classes make it difficult to do that. Students are missing much of the social aspect of school during this time of at-home studies. Cho agreed that it has been harder to maintain her school circle and has developed ways of making the day more normal by talking to her friends over a virtual lunch. “My friends and I planned to call during … lunch,” Cho said. “Calling my friends [then] gives me a sense of familiarity.” While eating lunch on FaceTime is certainly different, Cho says it “gives her a sense of normalcy,” and recommends others do the same.
The situation we find ourselves in is certainly not ideal, and while this school year will be far from normal, students are already finding ways to deal with these unusual circumstances. If you are struggling to adapt to long virtual school days, try implementing some of these tips into your routine.