Screen Time And COVID-19

A Jack Russel Terrier wearing glasses and using a laptop

With the abrupt increase in professional and personal time spent online due to stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic, you may not even notice how much screen time you’re racking up. In today’s blog post, we’re looking into all of the ways screen time has increased for much of the population of the United States. Once you get an understanding of how much time you’re spending looking at screens, check out our blog post about Computer Vision Syndrome and how to better manage your eye health while still engaging with the technology we need to continue our everyday lives during this unprecedented situation.

At Rochester Optical, we are taking COVID-19 very seriously while also striving to provide high-quality eye exams and eye care services to people in Rochester. As an essential business, we understand how important measures like social distancing and personal hygiene are to protect the health of our staff and community. When you need a reliable optometrist in Rochester, you can count on us even during these difficult times.

Screen Time and Work

If you are one of the many people now working from home due to COVID-19, you’re probably using a computer or other device with a screen much more than you usually would. Even if you worked at a computer for most of the day after commuting to the office, you probably got some breaks thanks to meetings and conversations with coworkers. Now that everything needs to be completed online, even those screen-time gaps have become a thing of the past: video meetings and office chat rooms have replaced in-person interactions, meaning our eyes must endure even more time focused on computer monitors.

For individuals who may not have spent as much time in front of screens, this new change can be especially difficult. For example, teachers who previously spent most of their time teaching class in person and grading physical papers must now transfer everything to online distance learning. Store owners who have converted their business into an ecommerce site must now dedicate more hours to setting up their site, maintaining online inventory, and managing orders from their computer. Real estate businesses and home builders must utilize virtual meetings and showings to continue to process home purchases. Pretty much anyone who now works from home or virtually in an office must spend much more time on the computer.

Screen Time and School

Outside of the workforce, kids, teens, and college students (who may indeed be part of the workforce, too) are also affected by the increase in screen time. Having school online means that days that were once filled with in-person classes and plenty of social interactions are now made up of mostly screen time. Since teachers can no longer accept physical assignments, students must spend more time translating written homework into a digital format. This can be especially time consuming for classes like math, science, and chemistry, which are often full of formulas and equations. It is a bit ironic that screen time is now longer at school than at home!

Screen Time at Home

Speaking of screen time at home, we’re doing it a lot more. Obviously this applies to working from home as well, but we’re talking about when you kick back and relax with your favorite screen. If your version of decompressing from a long day involves scrolling through news or social media on your phone, popping open your laptop to watch YouTube videos, bingeing Netflix, or playing video games, you may now be spending quite literally your entire day in front of a screen, aside from eating and using the bathroom — or perhaps you bring your phone along for those things, too. Even the productive habit of reading a book is commonly done on a e-reader or app. It may seem like a break for your brain and body, but your eyes are working overtime to keep up with all those screens!

Social Screen Time

With stay-at-home orders and social distancing guidelines in place, we’re not seeing our friends and family in person as often as we used to, and most likely not at all. This can lead to loneliness and isolation, if we weren’t able to use technology to check in with one another. While it’s not a replacement for face-to-face interactions, various apps and software allow us to see the people we care about through video chat, enabling us to engage with our social circles more thoroughly than by text messages or phone calls alone. While these interactions add to your daily dose of screen time, they’re probably the last type of screen use you should cut.

Other Activities Relying on Screens

What about other responsibilities and tasks? You’re probably using a screen for them as well. While essential businesses are open, it’s best to stay at home if you can. Because of this, you may be utilizing online ordering for groceries or food from your favorite restaurant or household products from a local retailer. If you went to church or attended religious services before the COVID-19 restrictions, you may be viewing them online now.

Screens are even being used for wellness purposes. With gyms closed, many individuals now rely on exercise videos, workout apps, and streaming group classes for their physical activity. Telemedicine has been ramping up, allowing doctors to diagnose and treat patients via video chat to avoid unnecessary visits to in-person clinics. Counseling services and even support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have transitions to video meetings as well.

Stay Mindful of Screen Time and Your Eye Health

It’s clear that screens are proving to be very helpful during these challenging times, but it’s still important to balance necessary and unnecessary use. Until stay-at-home orders are lifted and our daily lives return to normal, it’s important to be cognizant of how much strain we’re putting on our eyes by looking at screens for the majority of the day. In our Computer Eye Syndrome blog post, we dive into more detail about how screens can affect your eyes and what you can do to mitigate those affects. If you’re experiencing troublesome eye symptoms, Rochester Optical is operating with utmost care at this time. Request an exam online or give us a call to schedule your appointment.