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Are School Computers Ergonomically Friendly?

by Tania Cowling | May 8th, 2014 | School, Tweens

file7871235839810My friend’s Tween came home from middle school complaining of a neck ache and his eyes hurting. We weren’t quite sure what to make of this — does he need glasses?  Did he pull a muscle? Is this the beginning of a headache syndrome? After cross-examining him with questions, we realized he’d spent quite a few hours in front of a computer at school doing research for a project. This got us thinking about how the computer lab is set up at his school and is the equipment ergonomically friendly? Experts have been sounding alarms to parents about how to protect tech savvy kids from the risks of the aches and pains from continuous computer play at home, but shouldn’t this also pertain to the computers at school? And who is monitoring this?

Adults are suffering from repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel syndrome and eye strain from prolonged computer use. Now, there is evidence that this may arise in children at school too. Posture and traditional computer workstations can stress a child’s muscles. Puberty is a risky time as bodies are changing rapidly and Tweens are beginning to use computers at school at a more intensive level. Parents need to urge their school officials and PTA advocates to address the administration to correct computer ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct furniture in computer areas.

Here are a few points to look for and correct according to Cornell University’s Ergonomic Website:

Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or slightly below the child’s eye level. She shouldn’t have to look upward and the distance should be about 22 inches from the screen. This can be accomplished by taking the computer off its base to adjust the height, or having the Tween sit on firm pillows or a stack of books to raise her.

Make sure the chair at the workstation is the proper size for the Tween. Office chairs that are too large just don’t work, and a plain student desk chair doesn’t give enough support. It’s best if the chair has arm rests to support the elbows in a neutral position. An ergonomic pillow or even a rolled-up towel can be placed in the small of the back for added back support. The Tween’s feet should touch the ground or a proper footrest to avoid back strain.

The keyboard should be placed almost in the child’s lap, so having an adjustable tray is best when multiple kids use this workstation. The mouse should be placed near the keyboard so that the Tween doesn’t have to extend his arm too far to use it.

Provide adequate light to reduce eye strain and make sure there is no glare on the monitor screen. If necessary, clip on anti-glare screens to each monitor. And lastly, limit each child’s time at the computer. Make sure they take periodic stretch breaks.

As you are reading this post and taking heed of what your school needs to have for your Tween at school,  you’d better think about computer time at home too!

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