You and Your Computer 4

17 July 2008, by A. Cedilla

Part 4 of a series

The previous 3 parts in this series focused on software tips, websites and guidelines to taking care of yourself when you use the computer. This final installment deals with the particular needs of child users.

If you work at home and share your computer with your kids, or if each member of your family has a PC of their own, some special consideration is in order. Although, with the way some kids whizz through the basics and seem to master the use of the computer intuitively, you may ask, “Why? They’re better on the damn thing than I am!”

Remember:
Children’s hands are smaller. A mouse and keyboard for adult use may force kids to use their hands in awkward, stretched positions, stressing the developing muscles, bones and nerves. You can check for child-sized Little Fingers keyboards from Datadesk Technologies. Instead of using a regular mouse you can move to trackballs

Children are smaller. They may look cute with their feet dangling over the edge of your chair, but the pressure this places behind their knees can impede circulation. Get them a footrest. Giving them firm back support in the form of rolled-up pillows can also help alleviate added pressure on their backs.

Unless you teach them, they won’t know any better.

  • Sitting at a workstation meant for adults, they may lean far back and crane their heads so that they can see the screen comfortably for them. This puts extra strain on their neck and back.
  • Children tend to lose track of time if they”re too engrossed in a game or an activity like surfing. Schedule breaks. Use Ergofun or the other software suggestions in part one of the series.
  • They also need water breaks to keep their muscles working properly. Anything that has fizzy bubbles or is mostly colored (or not) sugar-water doesn’t count.

Today’s generation of children has been exposed to the computer revolution for all their lives; they’ve grown up along with the technology. And while it’s too soon to study the long-term effect of computer use on children who started at a very young age, it’s best that healthier measures are taken immediately to protect their long-term health, because they won’t stay kids for very long.

You can go to Cornell University Ergonomics Web,CUErgo, to see before and after pictures of properly set up workstations for children and teens in their Guidelines for Parents. Their other ergonomic links may help you out as well. Healthycomputing.com also has a special section for kids.

Helpful Stretches:

  • Softly clenching hands into fists and moving them in circles (10 inward and 10 outward)
  • Placing hands in a praying position and squeezing them together for 10 seconds, then pointing them downward and squeezing them together for 10 seconds;
  • Spreading fingers apart like a starfish, 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.(Also a good stretch for the back)

You can also download Stretchbreak ,(kiddie version) for free, or try out the 10-day trial version for adults.

Extra Precautions regarding backpacks: (This applies to adults too.)

  • Never go over 20% of your total body weight, or 25 lbs/ 11.3 kg, whichever comes first. 15% or below is better.
  • If you can’t avoid it (being a member of a special organization, or your recreational activities require you to go over) get the best equipment you can.

In a 1997 study of 11- and 12-year-olds conducted by the UK-based National Back Pain Association , researchers found that that 80% were wearing backpacks improperly and that some were hauling as much as 60% of their own body weight.

The following are the recommended limits set forth by the ACA, (American Chiropractic Association), the APTA (American Physical Therapy Association), and the AAOS (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons):

Person’s Weight (lb.)/ Maximum Backpack Weight (lb.)

60 / 5
60-75 / 10
100 / 15
125 / 18
150 / 20
200 or more / 25*

*No one should carry more than 25 lb.

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