Parents should be concerned about
not only what their children are viewing on the Internet, but also how they are
sitting while in front of their computers. As any adult who is metaphorically
chained to their desk can attest, there is a price to pay for poor posture. And
children are no different. Only, they don’t know, or care, about the
ergonomics of their desk set-up.
published in Computers in Schools (1998, vol. 14, pages 55-63) lead by Shawn
Oates, a graduate student of Cornell University, documented that elementary
school children are at serious risk for posture problems because of computer
workstations that have been designed with little regard to musculoskeletal
research suggests that ergonomic considerations for computer use among
elementary schoolchildren are frequently disregarded; this has implications for
health problems down the line,” says Cornell professor and environmental
psychologist Gary Evans.
In all, 95
students from 11 different schools in New York State were observed while working
at their classroom computer stations. Not a single student scored within
acceptable levels. Forty per cent of the third to fifth graders were at postural
risk while the other 60 fell under a category of “some concern.”
children are now working for short periods of time on keyboards that are too
high and incorrectly angled, looking sharply up at monitors and with their legs
dangling, unsupported on the floor,” says Oates.
computer desk designed for an adult has
been adapted for an eight-year-old to
minimize postural strain.
With a few
recommendations you can help your young patients set up their computers to avoid
the risk of cumulative trauma disorders or repetitive strain injury often caused
by working at computer stations with poor posture. The advice is similar to that
which you would give an adult, simply adapted for a smaller body.
· Monitor should be located directly in front of the body with the eyes
directed at the upper one-third of the screen. For a child, raise the chair so
their eyes are at the correct level.
· Elbows should be at 90 to 100 degrees without bending wrists to rest on
the keyboard. An adjustable keyboard tray, which can be lowered and angled for
each individual user, is a good investment.
· Consider buying a child-sized keyboard and mouse.
· A good chair should support the back with knees resting two inches from
the front edge. Place a pillow behind the child’s back for support and to move
them forward so their knees hang free.
· Feet should reach the floor. If they don’t, a stool should be placed
under the feet so that knees are bent at approximately 100 degrees.
· Head and shoulders should be relaxed and neutral.
· Watch the time! Breaks should be taken every 20 to 30 minutes.
· Parents should assess their children’s posture and adjust a home
workstation to facilitate the most neutral posture possible.
University Ergonomic Web