A Virtual Reality

A look into how Stuyvesant students are coping with the copious amounts of daily screen time.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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By Susannah Ahn

The typical weekday for a high schooler has changed drastically due to COVID-19. Instead of running to catch the train, students rush out of bed to log in to their Zoom meetings. Hanging out with friends has been replaced with watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly through social media. Our lives have become largely online as we increasingly rely on screens on a daily basis. From a survey taken in the Dear Incoming Class of ’23 Facebook group, 260 out of 274 students said they spend over 10 hours on their screens for school-related tasks, including Zoom classes, homework, and extracurriculars.

Most students start their days by sitting in front of a computer screen. “I get up five minutes before class, make the bottom half of my bed because that’s the part that shows on my camera, and then join my first Zoom,” senior Sunny Bok said.

Once the day starts, students attend up to five Zoom meetings that usually last 55 minutes each. “I have three classes a day with 10-minute breaks, and all of my teachers go live,” junior Naya Mukul said.

The school day lasts from 9:10 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. for most students, making their days packed with virtual learning. “I spend an average of four hours on Zoom every day,” Bok stated.

But learning from a screen all day can make it difficult for students to stay focused. “It’s hard paying attention to hours of Zoom meetings every day. I’d much rather be learning in a school setting because it would be easier to stay engaged and focused,” Mukul said.

Screen time does not end when the school day does. “Most of my homework is done online, and I spend around four to five hours doing it after school,” sophomore August Li described.

Fortunately, not all teachers give homework virtually. “Most of my homework is written, scanned, and put up online, except for classes like gym where homework is just a form, and for band, [in which] I need to record myself playing my flute,” Bok stated.

Extracurriculars normally conducted in person after school have also been replaced with virtual alternatives, with even performance-based activities such as StuySquad moving online. Because of this change, after-school activities add a significant amount of screen time to the average Stuyvesant student’s day. “My extracurricular meetings for the day can last until 8:00 p.m.,” Mukul said.

All this screen time does not come without consequences. Many students have noticed some of the not-so-great side effects of spending eight or more hours on a device. Junior Tamzid Tapan shared, “I've been having the weirdest migraines; normally, my head doesn't hurt, but recently it's been getting pretty bad.” Mukul shared a similar experience of increased headaches since school went virtual.

Bok additionally described her more severe side effects saying, “My eyes get watery, and once after I woke up and rubbed my eyes, my eyes stayed blurry for a good 20 minutes. I thought I lost my vision.”

To cope with the strain of required Zoom classes and virtual completion of homework, many students find themselves turning to physical exercise. Junior Jacky Chen explained, “I spend a little time exercising to cope with the screen time.”

Mukul tries to exercise as well, but also mentioned an item that helps her handle the long hours online. “Blue light glasses help with the screen time,” Mukul shared.

Reducing procrastination is also something students are turning to in hopes of lessening screen time. “Procrastination means more time staring at a screen, which equals [to] more headaches,” Tapan reasoned. “The more I cut out procrastination, the more [time I have] to do things that don't involve looking at a screen.”

While there are many upsides of virtual school, the added screen time is certainly not a bonus. This is not ideal for anyone, but students are making the most of our current reality. As Mukul pointed out, “Finding something to look forward to every day, even if it’s something small, has really helped me manage, especially when the days start to feel the same.”