As the county’s children return to school this week, I was pondering the future negative effects computers can have on children especially as it seems the time children spend on computers is rapidly increasing. In my clinics, I’ve always treated a steady flow of children suffering from postural problems due to birth trauma, knocks and falls, persistent ear infections and poor posture.
Over the last five years I’ve also seen an increase in children with neck, hands, shoulder and wrist pain due to long hours spent at the computer, TV screen or games console. I believe that as a society we’re setting ourselves up for an epidemic of repetitive strain type injuries (for example, carpal tunnel syndrome) and neck pain in our late teens and early twenties.
Whilst operations to relieve the pain and numbness of carpal tunnel syndrome can usually for a few years at least, be successful, our aim should be to avoid the necessity for invasive surgery by teaching our sons and daughters good computer postural habits. Poor work habits and computer workstations that don’t fit a child’s body during the developing years can have harmful physical effects that can last a lifetime.
Advice for setting up your child’s workstation from The American Chiropractic Association offers parents the following tips:
1) If children and adults in your home share the same computer workstation, make certain that the workstation can be modified for each child’s use.
2) Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below the child’s eye level. This can be accomplished by taking the computer off its base or stand, or having the child sit on firm pillows to reach the desired height.
3) Make sure the chair at the workstation fits the child correctly.
4) An ergonomic back cushion, pillow or a rolled-up towel can be placed in the small of the child’s back for added back support.
5) There should be two inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of the knees.
6) The chair should have arm supports so that elbows are resting within a 70 to 135 degree angle to the computer keyboard.
7) Wrists should be held in a neutral position while typing – not angled up or down.
8) The mousing surface should be close to the keyboard so your child doesn’t have to reach or hold the arm away from the body.
9) The child’s knees should be positioned at an approximate 90 to 120 degree angle. To accomplish this angle, feet can be placed on a foot rest, box, stool or similar object.
10) Reduce eye strain by making sure there is adequate lighting and that there is no glare on the monitor screen. Use an anti glare screen if necessary.
11) Limit your child’s time at the computer and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks during computing time. Stretches can include: clenching hands into fists and moving them in 10 circles inward and 10 circles outward; placing hands in a praying position and squeezing them together for 10 seconds and then pointing them downward and squeezing them together for 10 seconds; spreading fingers apart and then closing them one by one; standing and wrapping arms around the body and turning all the way to the left and then all the way to the right.
12) Help your child avoid the misery of future neck, back, shoulder, wrist and hand pain by setting up their computer work station to take account of their size and shape. A few minutes now can help prevent a lifetime of problems later on.
13) Your child’s muscles need adequate hydration to work properly and avoid injury. Encourage your child to drink four 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Carbonated beverages, juices and other sweet drinks are not a substitute.
14) Urge your child’s school or PTA officials to provide education on correct computer ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct workstations.
If your child continues to complain of pain and strain from sitting at a computer, see your local chiropractically trained health professional who can help alleviate your child’s pain and help prevent further injury.