How does Device Usage Contribute to Poor Posture and Eye Strain?


Olivier Douliery

The modern age of remote learning sees most students staying sedentary by their computers to attend online classes.

In this age of remote learning, electronic devices have become more critical than ever. Screen time for students has also compounded as traditional classroom hours in person have been substituted by hours meeting on Zoom during the regular school day — meaning nearly eight hours watching lectures on computer screens as opposed to the pre-pandemic era of whiteboards and projectors. As most know, prolonged device usage contributes to poor posture habits and potentially damages the eyes. But what exactly about the screens is so harmful to us and what steps can be taken to minimize the negative effects?


The most obvious and direct effect of prolonged device usage is eye strain, given that many students spend hours watching their monitors, whether it be for remote learning, social media use, digital entertainment, or homework over digital platforms. Regardless of what that screen time is spent on, vision-related problems arise when we stare too long. 


According to the American Optometric Association, viewing digital devices differs from, reading a book or viewing nature, because of the difficulty in reading screens. Often, the letters on a computer are not as sharply contrasted against its background or defined compared to that of a printed book. Further reflections or glare in the bezel forces your eyes to work harder to read. Essentially, screens affect our eyes because they strain our eyes’ capability to comfortably see.


The American Optometric Association suggests the 20-20-20 rule to prevent eye strain from device usage: every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break looking at something 20 feet away. Yet, in the end, reducing screen time is the most effective way to prevent digital eye strain as symptoms like blurred vision or reduced eyesight can worsen with further screen time.


Poor posture is another negative outcome of prolonged screen usage, although it is connected more with phone usage than computers. However, as stated by the American Optometric Association, poor posture may remain an issue for some technology users as some people have habits of tilting their heads, necks, or bodies at various odd angles to read a screen better. For mobile phones, according to the Center for Physical Rehabilitation, bad posture and slouching is more distinct as most people tilt their neck downwards for prolonged periods to read their smartphones. This combined with extended periods in the same position can create bad posture habits and injury to spine structures.

Tejas Niroola (11) suggests frequent walking breaks to exercise back and leg muscles to support better posture. “Sitting in front of a computer pretty much locks your back and leg muscles in the same position for a while,” he says. “Getting up and moving around helps you unwind.”


The Center for Physical Rehabilitation recommends sitting upright (or standing upright in the case of using mobile phones), keeping devices at eye level, and taking intermittent breaks from screens to promote good posture and prevent faulty habits. 


In the end, given our forced situation to socially distance due to the pandemic, technology has transformed and augmented the potential of communication. Zoom, Google Meets, and Webex are just a few of the digital conference platforms utilized daily to connect people as they quarantine themselves. However, that doesn’t mean that physical health and well-being should be neglected. Stay healthy Mustangs!