Your Screen May Be Hurting You; Here’s Why.


Ayomiposi Ajayi, Staff Writer

From the sun’s bright rays to the light that comes from our electronic devices, blue light is all around us. It has been more than three months since the first day of school for Eleanor Roosevelt High School students. Ever since the new distance learning style has been imposed, students and staff are subjected to prolonged exertion of staring at a computer or screen everyday. With the majority of students preferring in-person learning to virtual, some students are not aware of the issues that come with the constant exposure to blue light. According to a student based survey, 100% of students believe that virtual school has increased the amount of time they spend in front of a screen, with the majority spending 5-7 hours everyday. Spending more than a specific amount of time in front of a computer, where blue light is more prominent, is linked to causing health issues. For example, spending just two consecutive hours on a digital device can bring about eye strain and fatigue.

 A Harvard medical study on High Energy Visible (HEV) light revealed that blue light can be one of the most dangerous lights for the retina. “After chronic exposure, one can expect to see long range growth in the number of macular degenerations, glaucomas, and retinal degenerative diseases”. The blue light emitted from screens looked at by students is a very large and dangerous factor that may cause long term negative effects to their eyes. The risk of permanent eye damage could be a significant risk factor that comes with this new learning style. 

 Interestingly, blue light also has some benefits. The human body uses blue light to regulate sleep and wake cycles, or the circadian rhythm. According to the same Harvard study, blue light also helps boost alertness, heighten reaction times, elevate moods, improve the sleep wake cycle, and improve memory and cognitive function. Though student surveys have revealed that since school began, the majority of students have not experienced any of the positive effects that blue light has. Instead, more students are seen to experience the harmful effects of blue light such as being sad/depressed occasionally or frequently, blurry vision, difficulty focusing, headaches, neck or back pain, dry or irritated eyes, and lack of sleep. The reason as to why students are not experiencing the positives of blue light more than the negatives is simple. 

Everyday, with the exception of Wednesdays, students are in front of the computer for 45 minute classes and only five minute breaks in between each period. This equates to be about seven hours everyday. After school, students have homework assignments, most of which are digital because of the learning format. Many Eleanor Roosevelt students also partake in clubs and extracurricular activities with more than half of students surveyed having clubs most days of the week. These clubs range from 30 minutes to an hour, and also require students to stare at a screen, the same way they do for classes. With this time, it can be estimated that a good amount of students spend nine or more hours looking at a screen everyday, some of this being consecutively. 

The majority of students also find themselves looking at a screen or some source of blue light right before going to bed. According to a study conducted by Harvard researchers, exposure to such strong rays at night has been linked to several types of cancer (breast, prostate),  diabetes, heart disease, obesity, lack of sleep, and an increased risk for depression. Although the reason that blue light causes these health problems is unconfirmed, the suppression of melatonin is something that blue light can do at night. This explains why a high percentage of students reported a lack of sleep since school started. Along with other factors, exposure to blue light at night contributes to why students are not getting enough sleep.

Moreover, a large number of students do not have and are not aware of the recommended preventive measures that can be taken against blue light. Options that involve money are protective ophthalmic lenses that can reflect or cut blue light and blue light screen protectors. There are simpler and less expensive options to take such as remembering to blink more often to prevent eye dryness, taking frequent breaks from the computer, and cleaning your computer screen regularly to help reduce glare. To prevent the health issues that can arise from exposure to blue light, sleeping with a dim red light on is recommended since it’s weaker rays are less likely to suppress melatonin.

This new virtual learning format is something that students have to get used to. While experiencing and warming up to its positives and negatives, it is imperative that students are informed and are able to take preventative measures against the dangerous effects of blue light.