02 Jul 2020

A Student’s Guide to Avoiding Screen Fatigue

If you’re spending more time than usual looking at your computer screen recently, you are in good company. Whether you’re using online study materials, reading an ebook for pleasure, or working remotely for an internship, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a touch (or more) of screen fatigue. 

What is screen fatigue, you might ask? Symptoms include impaired vision, strained eye muscles, inability to focus your vision, poor posture, headaches, as well as shoulder and neck discomfort. Additionally, there is mounting research indicating that excess blue-light exposure from screens interferes with our ability to set our circadian rhythm, which is essential for restful sleep. (And the importance of restful sleep cannot be overstated.) 

All that is to say, it is important to be intentional about the way we interact with our screens in order to get the most out of our screentime. For students especially, as schools go remote and exams are offered online, the shift from paper-based to computer-based education requires new strategies for effective, meaningful learning. 

We’ve pulled together the following tips for avoiding screen fatigue and setting yourself up for successful online learning… 

1. Curate your physical and virtual spaces 

Your physical environment can play a huge role in your level of focus and motivation. Finding a quiet space away from distractions is an obvious and essential part of curating a space that is conducive to learning. Don’t forget to curate your virtual space as well, by turning your phone on “do not disturb” mode and installing an ad blocker on your web browser.

2. Customize your on-screen experience

Be sure to consider what’s most comfortable for your eyes. Most online reading platforms allow you to increase font size, contrast, and select non-white backgrounds. These are all easy ways to eliminate the need to squint and strain your eye muscles. If you have trouble tracking while you read or you’re simply looking to take your online reading game to the next level, consider checking out BeeLine Reader. This Chrome extension uses an eye-guiding color gradient trick to pull your eyes from one line to the next, which can help increase reading speed and enhance focus. Plus, they’ve launched an initiative to provide free access for university students and K-12 teachers in response to COVID-19!

3. Perfect your lighting

Whether you’re reading a book or a computer monitor, lighting is key. If possible, avoid having a window behind you while looking at your computer screen. This will decrease the glare on your screen and make on-screen reading more enjoyable. Similarly, using a small table lamp, rather than a bright overhead light, may make your online reading experience more pleasant. 

4. Use the 20-20-20 rule 

If you struggle maintaining focus while staring at your screen, the anti-fatigue 20-20-20 technique may come in handy. Every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. (Set a timer on your desk to remind you at 20 minute intervals to look away from your screen for 20 seconds. Soon it will become a habit and your eyes will thank you!) 

5. Hydrate 

Hydration, like sleep, often feels like a magic cure-all. In the case of online learning, hydration is essential because eye tissue is predominantly water. So, if you become dehydrated, your eyes will feel extra dry. No matter how absorbed you are in your online course or reading material, don’t forget to drink plenty of water. 

6. Know when to take a break!

We want to support you in meeting all of your academic and test prep goals, but we recognize that an essential part of success is knowing when to take a break. If your schedule allows, try to use your weekends to reduce screen time and spend some time outdoors. Take advantage of whatever hobbies or activities help you feel refreshed and motivated. This positive momentum will carry over to the next time you sit down to tackle an online problem set or reading assignment. 

As new hybrid learning models take shape for the fall semester, we will be brainstorming more strategies for remote learning. So, stay tuned! As always, at Sentia we don’t just tutor, we’ll be with you every step of the way™!

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