Managing Screen Fatigue During Remote Learning

student studying

Do your eyes feel tired? Do they feel dry? Have you struggled to keep your eyes open during online courses? In our current situation (history in the making), screen fatigue is a side effect to our remote learning environment. While we used to take pleasure in binge-watching our favorite shows on TV or scrolling endlessly through social media, we now attend synchronous courses and complete all asynchronous assignments on our various devices. How can you manage screen fatigue?

Strategies to Manage Screen Fatigue¹:

  • Say no when needed– suggest a phone call instead of a video call
  • Adjust brightness of screen; try turning on a room light
  • Use blue light-filtered glasses
  • Use speaker view when in video calls; helps you focus on one person instead of 5 or more people
  • Use phone call or email as alternatives for communication
  • Get exposure to sunlight
  • Schedule time away from screen (i.e. board games/puzzles, physical activity, reading, journaling, cooking)

Having everything on the screen is stressful! It affects you cognitively (e.g., trouble concentrating), emotionally (e.g., experiencing irritability), physiologically (e.g., headaches), and behaviorally (e.g., inability to carry out routine daily activities). We may experience screen fatigue because our eyes are trying to focus on every section of the screen at one time². Additionally, we may feel fatigue from our devices due to their blue light which may cause “disrupting sleep patterns, feeling of weakness, blurred or reduced vision, eye pain, headache, [and] reduce the melatonin hormone”². Blue light also sustains our alertness and delays sleep onset³. Blue light-filtered glasses decrease the negative side effects and allows our bodies to follow our sleep cycle, though somewhat delayed.

 

Strategies for a Better Night’s Sleep via Screen Time³:

  • Limit blue light use prior to sleeping (15 minutes instead of 30 minutes)
  • Engage in minimal social interaction
  • View uninteresting posts on social media
  • Engage in passive screen time (e.g., watching TV instead of playing video games)⁴

While there are various ways to limit blue light usage, it is more effective to take breaks from screen time. Going outside and engaging in nonelectronic activities may help your overall health and stress levels. If possible, engaging in in-person social interactions (with social distancing, of course) may also benefit your social-emotional health. Most of our day is dedicated to screen time so, it is important for you to balance some non-screen time into your daily routine.

Resources:

  • ¹Belfast Health and Social Care Trust. (23 July, 2020). Screen Fatigue. Youtube. [video] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JthqGBkwfc4)
  • ²Bhanu Priya, D., & Subramaniyam, Murali (1 August, 2020). A Systematic Review on Visual Fatigue Induced by Tiny Screens (Smartphones). Materials Science and Engineering, Vol.912 (6), p.62009
  • ³Bowler, J. & Bourke, P. (2019). Facebook Use and Sleep Quality: Light Interacts with Socially Induced Alertness. British Journal of Psychology, 110, 519–529.
  • ⁴Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen Time and Sleep Among School-Aged Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Literature Review. Sleep Medicine Reviews, Volume 21, p. 50-58.

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Joyce Macaraeg, Academic Coach, Spring 2021