Online learning and the affects on students’ health: Why we should take breaks from the screen

The increased screen time and decreased academic motivation brought by virtual learning have left many students to struggle with new-found anxieties back at home.


Photo by Katelyn Mandell

A student sits at her desk doing work for one of her many online classes.


Overwhelmed and isolated during this unprecedented era, students have been trying to navigate the anxieties brought by the global pandemic; all while trying to obtain a fulfilling education through distance learning. Although having school at home does present positive opportunities for some, the increased screen time and the absence of any external motivations have become detrimental for our overall well being.
“In my own experience, virtual learning has gotten progressively harder. It’s not so much from the intense workloads, but the struggle lies in the motivation to stay focused. It’s difficult to manage my responsibilities when the pressure to complete them primarily has to come from myself and not from being in a classroom environment,” Jorge Barajas (12) said.
Along with not working in an “original” classroom environment, the long hours of sitting and looking at a screen can potentially be harmful to students’ health. Sitting for long periods of time in front of a computer can raise your risk for strokes, high blood pressure, heart disease, as well as it contributes to the development of long term back injuries. Usually, on campus, we would avoid this by taking breaks periodically when we’d go to our different classes and to lunch. However, since school has transitioned to distance learning, we have lost those valuable moments.
“With the amount of screen time, plus the added work that we get, doesn’t give us a break at all. I personally spend more time than the normal time allotted to actually finish work. It’s [mentally] stressful to me because then I don’t have time to finish assignments that are due on the same day. During the breaks that we’re given now, which is advisory and lunch, I only have time to make a quick breakfast and then I still have chores to do. It’s also brought down my free time that I used to do things that I actually like,” Arlene Bedolla (11) said.
Without any scheduled breaks or the obvious need to go outside, now that we’re all home, students have found working at the computer all day to also be mentally taxing. Most have experienced feeling “burned-out” and just overall lacking any motivation. To alleviate these overwhelming feelings, students must integrate time throughout their school day to stretch and to take breathers from the screen.
“I’ve found that I can do small things throughout my day. I make sure that after every class, I get up, walk around, and stretch. As soon as my workday is done, I absolutely make sure to go outside. I think that building in those things right now is huge and once you start to do that then you will see like ‘Ok, I’m still getting my schoolwork done, I’m not suddenly failing all of my classes, and I feel better. When I go back, I can actually get my work done faster.’ It starts to snowball into this wonderful effect. You start to realize that you can have an hour to do whatever that makes you feel happy, and then you start to remember yourself,” MHHS Art History and Advisory teacher Erin Lucas said.
Finding time in between periods or after working for a while will be super beneficial for your well being. It will ultimately allow you to feel at peace with yourself, which will eventually propel your motivation to work. It’s easier said than done, however, allowing yourself to introduce smaller breaks within your school day, whether it be walking around or getting a snack, will definitely help in the long run. Whenever you feel stressed or burned out, take a moment from whatever it is that’s overwhelming you and give yourself a well deserved break.