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For many students, this school year involves a new way of learning. With virtual classes and independent work, it’s an adjustment for both parents and children, says Carroll Hospital pediatric hospitalist Preethi Thomas, M.D., one that requires planning and structure to ensure a healthy transition to online learning.

Here are some tips for a healthy virtual learning experience:

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Create a comfortable learning zone, free of distractions, for your child. “Elementary children might be really distracted in their own room. They might be better off in a dining room, where an adult can supervise them,” says Dr. Thomas.

Ensure the learning zone is organized and set up with all the necessary school supplies, with everything easily accessible for your child during class.

Create a weekly schedule for your child. It can include everything from when to wake up, eat breakfast, sign on for class and go to bed, says Dr. Thomas. “Kids nurture very well in a routine structure. They can even have a list that they can check off once they’ve accomplished their schedule or they’ve completed a task,” she says.

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Make sure your child’s computer screen is positioned slightly above eye level. This will prevent children from straining or hunching their backs.

Monitor your child’s screen time to prevent eye fatigue. “We normally recommend a 20/20/20 rule. You look away every 20 minutes to an object that is 20 feet away for 20 seconds,” says Dr. Thomas. Eye fatigue can also be prevented by using natural light, having the computer in a well-lit room and adjusting the computer’s text size, if necessary, for comfortable viewing.

Have your child take breaks in between subjects or at convenient times. Breaks can help to increase focus, reduce stress and help students better retain information they have learned.

And, when the school day is over, encourage your child to do non-screen time activities. “Have them play outdoors, bike, hike—something other than using a screen,” says Dr. Thomas. “They are spending a substantial amount of time looking at a screen because of the learning environment they are in.”

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Featured in the fall 2020 issue of A Healthy Dose, Carroll Hospital’s community magazine.