Researchers: More Studies Needed on Long-term Impact of Virtual Learning on Children's Eye Health

Judith Lavrich, MD, and Jordan Hamburger discuss what additional studies need to be carried out in order to better understand the effects of virtual learning on children's long-term eye health.

This is only the beginning of the research that needs to be done on this subject, 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.


How can you translate findings from your study on the impact of digital school into children's long-term eye health?

Lavrich: Well, it's important because we know that digital technology is here to stay, and we also know that the educational curriculum post pandemic is changing, and probably a lot more digital use is going to be done. Our study helped to understand the effects of digital technology on children's eyes. There's only a few published studies related to this subject. So our hopes are that by increasing the recognition that digital technology can have negative effects on some children, that modifications can be made to the curriculum, potentially, to lessen these effects and provide a more equal learning environment for which these children can learn. I think this is only the beginning of the research that needs to be done on this subject. As I said, there's very few published studies on this subject. I think it's important that even healthy children can develop eye complaints when using computers and tablets, and that parents need to be aware of this and they should be listening for and asking children if they're having any of these eye symptoms while they're using their digital technology, and that the parents should bring these complaints to the attention of their eye doctors if they're having them.

Hamburger: The long-term effects of virtual school are unknown at this point. Our study only was able to assess the acute complaints of virtual school after only 1 virtual school session. But as Dr Lavrich said, it is important for parents and doctors to be very aware of the complaints that healthy children are complaining from for virtual school, and for these children to be seen by their ophthalmologist if they're complaining about any these sorts of conditions.

Lavrich: Nor do we know if children who already have eye problems are experiencing even more symptomatology than the healthy children. So, this needs to be further studied as well. But we certainly know that healthy children are having significant eye complaints. So, that's a whole other study to be done.