Researchers Explain Next Steps for Studying the Ocular Effects of Virtual Learning

Judith Lavrich, MD, and Jordan Hamburger outline next steps for their research on virtual learning and pediatric eye health.

Some schools have already incorporated breaks in their digital learning, said Judith Lavrich, MD, a clinical assistant professor at Thomas Jefferson University and ophthalmologist at Wills Eye Hospital Department of Pediatric Ophthalmology, and Jordan Hamburger, a fourth-year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University.


What are the next steps for your research on the ocular effects of virtual school?

Lavrich: I think the next step for the research would be studying if there's an amount of time or potentially adding in break times or times where [students are] not doing solely digital learning. They can be doing something other than digital learning where they're so intently focused, to see if that lessens eye complaints. That certainly could be a study. Certainly we want to have more break times. And I think that's already been integrated in some of the digital learning that has been done at schools. They have built-in break times in some of the digital formats, which is kind of important. But certainly, it needs to be studied, what can we do to reduce these complaints? And why are they having these complaints? We don't really know yet why, this is just the beginning of what needs to be done.

Based on your research on the ocular effects of virtual school, would you expect to see similar findings among workers who look at screens all day?

Lavrich: Well, we don't know from our study because we we're only looking at healthy children. But certainly, it certainly can be transposed. And certainly studies need to be done on workers who are spending their whole time on screens. Now, this is again, one we can't infer from our study, things that we didn't study. But certainly, clearly more studies need to be done on digital learning and time on screen. Certainly as a pediatric ophthalmologist, and adult [ophthalmologist who] studies strabismus and looks at strabismus all day, I have seen definitely, an increase in adults with a particular type of strabismus that occurs from our eyes being focused in all the time where they lose their ability to diverge the eyes. Again, my other colleagues are seeing this as well, a huge increase in the amount of surgery that we need to do for this problem. And is that related to technology use? Possibly, but again it needs to be further studied.