Tools & Tips for Healthier Screen Time
In the time of COVID-19, adults and children alike have had to massively overhaul their process for working and learning, with an obvious shift towards more screen time. At Empow Studios, we have been considering this as we added virtual programming to our camps and classes.
With the goal of healthier screen time in mind, we have compiled some tools and tips that can aid in lessening eye and body strain while viewing a computer screen.
F.lux is a free program designed to tint your computer screen to adapt to the time of day, making it bright/normal early in the day and dimmer and more red later in the day. This makes a noticeable difference when one is on the computer all day for work and their personal life, making it easier to look at the screen. It’s quick & easy to install and available on Windows, Mac, Linux, and on the stores for iPhone and Android. Visit the f.lux website here.
If you know what “dark mode” is but are frustrated that the feature is not available on all websites, you are in luck! Dark Reader is a browser plugin that can make any website in dark mode, which for the uninitiated, means that the color brightness on the screen is essentially flipped — all white backgrounds become black, text becomes white, and other elements of each page automatically have their colors tweaked to match the new color scheme. Dark Reader is available here for several modern browsers. Keyboard shortcuts (for example Alt-Shift-D on Windows) are included in this plugin to quickly swap between dark and normal color modes.
An emerging field of study for computer use is eyewear that blocks blue light, letting other less-straining frequencies of light through. If you are interested in checking out this technology, check out Blue Light Kids.
Turn your brightness down
All modern devices have a way to adjust screen brightness. If all else fails, this is still a reliable way to reduce eye strain. Experiment with the screen brightness settings on your device, turning it from dim to bright, until you find the level that’s just right. Hopefully you landed on a brightness setting that isn’t the highest one!
Take more breaks!
This might sound also obvious, but taking more frequent, short breaks in your computer-using workflow can really help your eyes. This can be accompanied by getting up to stretch. For those who really don’t want to get up, try just staring in a different direction than your monitor at something in your room for a minute when you need a break from your work.
Worth noting is that all Empow Studios Virtual STEM Camps with LIVE Instructors this summer are structured to have project time in 25-minute chunks. This allows for our students to take more breaks than at a physical camp, allowing time to stretch, get some water, and not look at the screen during a time when it’s required for learning.
Computer desk ergonomics
Ergonomics is the study of people’s efficiency in their work environment and it often has a connotation with body health. Here’s a quick rundown of some basic computer desk ergonomics that can save you some pain in the long run if implemented consistently:
- Check that your arms are bent at roughly a 90 degree angle when typing on the keyboard. This is the best way to reduce wrist strain when typing for long periods.
- Aim to have the top of your computer monitor roughly at the same height as your eyes. Your eyes should gaze slightly downward to view the center of your screen. This is to reduce neck and back strain. In order to reach the above goals, we recommend a laptop stand and separate keyboard for laptops. For desktop setups, sit on a cushion, use a different chair, or put something like a large book underneath your computer monitor(s) to change their height relative to your eyes.
- Try to keep a straight posture!
- Try to implement stretching into your routine — for example doing hand stretches every time you take a quick break, and doing more full-body stretches when you’re done with the workday.
Ask your community!
Empow Studios recommends reaching out to friends, colleagues, and family to see what other kinds of things they do to reduce eye and body stress when using computers. You may find an awesome tool or technique that we didn’t mention. If so, feel free to let us know!