Online classes leading to stress, eye problems in children, say parents

Health problems are cropping up as screen time increases for students due to schools being shut because of the Covid-19 pandemic
By Rajanbir Singh | Hindustan Times, Chandigarh, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON JUL 20, 2020 09:18 PM IST
Though the human resource development ministry has asked schools to limit screen time for students, many institutes are not following the new directions, say parents.(Keshav Singh/HT/For representation only)

The long hours children spend on computers and smart phones for online classes as schools remain shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic is beginning to bother parents as complaints of headaches, eye problems and stress surface, it has been learnt.

Time spent on screens not just for studies but for other activities as well is increasing, says a city-based psychiatrist, who, worryingly feels it’s turning out to be “worse than cannabis addition.”

The ministry of human resource development (MHRD) recommended just 30 hours of screen time for pre-primary students, two classes of 45 minutes each for classes 1 to 8 and four classes of 45 minutes each for classes 9 to 12, but that’s not working, parents allege. Many schools are not following the directions,which anyway are not binding.

Classes go on for longer than expected. “My children recently developed fever and headaches after attending online classes and I had to take them to the doctor,” says Nitin Goyal, president of the Chandigarh Parents Association.

About his two children in Class 8 at a private school in the tricity, Mahesh Dheer from Panchkula says, “they had only one class initially, which has now increased to four. Sometimes lessons are extended till the evening after which the children have to complete homework. We try to have 10 minute breaks for them to relax and wash their eyes, but there is a visible redness in their eyes now which makes me very concerned as a parent.”

Some parents are reporting mental health issues too due to excessive use of gadgets. Baljinder Singh of Sector 21, Chandigarh, suspects his children have increased mood swings now. “They are already cooped up at home and are getting cranky and restless. After their online classes I find they are unable to focus on their work and suffer from headaches,” he says.

Opticians report jump in sales

Opticians in the city too say more cases of children with complaints of eye strain are coming to them. “At least three or four people come in every day to get their children’s eyes tested because of increased screen time,” says Samrat Arora, the general secretary of the Chandigarh Optical Association, who runs an eye care centre in Sector 22. “We prescribe blue light filtering glasses and anti fatigue lenses to these children, which cost about Rs 1,200 and more.”

Eye wear sales have jumped fourfold, adds Arora.

‘Worse than cannabis addiction’

Calling screen addiction among children a growing concern, Dr Adarsh Kohli, professor of clinical psychology at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research compares it to cannabis addiction, “Too much exposure to screens of mobiles and laptops leads a feeling of isolation and anxiety in the current scenario. It can lead to depression and an increase in neurotic traits such as nail biting, thumb sucking and hair pulling,” she says.

This can have an adverse physical impact on children and lead to eye strain on eyes and ears, obesity and disturbed sleep patterns, she adds.

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