The global pandemic has increased health concerns of individuals for more reasons than one. In addition to COVID-19 itself, the resulting lifestyle changes from the virus have raised other issues, such as eyesight and cognitive development.
Increased screen time due to school closures and a greater dependence on digital devices have been known to cause unhealthy habits such as drinking less water, ignoring bathroom calls, and living a sedentary lifestyle. Facing a screen also decreases the frequency of one’s blinking, which dries out the eyes, and it could increase one’s risk for nearsightedness, or myopia. Nearsightedness is when objects far away appear blurry, and it happens when the eyeball is too long or the cornea is too curved, causing light rays to bend incorrectly onto the retina. Although it is a common condition that can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses, myopia tends to worsen over time. Severe myopia could increase the risk of other vision-related problems, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and retinal detachment.
“At the moment I see and hear of children complaining of eye strain and headache, but for next year, I expect a boom of children needing prescriptions and a worsening in children who are already myopic,” said OSN Pediatrics/Strabismus Board Member Jordana Smith, MD, in the Healio article, “Increased digital screen time during COVID-19 may accelerate myopia epidemic.”
School closures have also limited adolescent and young children’s social interactions, which could have detrimental effects on their cognitive and social development. Infancy and adolescence are the two periods of time when the brain undergoes important development, which makes the effects of social distancing especially important for those ages.
“If our teens’ experiences are stunted during this time, if they’re short-changed on opportunities to grow, learn, and develop, I believe the impact from prolonged isolation will be greater on them,” said developmental psychologist and family coach Cameron Caswell, PhD on Healthline’s article, “How COVID-19 Could Affect Kids’ Long-Term Social Development.”
Extracurricular activities and attending school are usually places of growth for teens in finding their identity and honing social skills. While online schooling might protect students from COVID-19, the other consequences are becoming increasingly important for parents and students alike.