Ninety-two percent of Australian children aged 5-14 years use information and communication technologies including computers, with increased use correlated with higher age. 87% of boys and 80% of girls regularly participate in electronic screen-based activities.
As a result of this increased usage, Osteopaths are treating more young patients suffering from the side effects of unhealthy computing behaviours; such behaviours include frequent and long durations of exposure; awkward postures due to inappropriate furniture and workstation layout, and ignoring computer-related discomfort. Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders.
Emphasis needs to be placed on teaching children how to properly use computer workstations. Poor work habits and computer workstations that don’t fit a child’s body during the developing years can have negative physical and developmental effects that can potentially last a lifetime. Parents should be just as concerned about their children’s computer work stations/play stations as they are with any other activities that may affect their children’s long-term health.
To reduce technology related strain on your child , we suggest the following tips:
- If children and adults in your home share the same computer workstation make certain that the workstation can be modified for each use
- 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 an adjustable chair to reach the desired height.
- Make sure the chair at the workstation fits the child correctly. 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. There should be two inches between the front edge of the seat and the back of the knees. The chair should have arm supports so that elbows are resting within a 70 to 135 degree angle to the computer keyboard.
- The child’s knees should be positioned at an approximate 90 to 120degree angle. To
accomplish this angle, feet can be placed on a foot rest, box, stool or similar object.
- Limit your child’s time at the computer and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks during computing time.
- Urge your child’s school to provide education on correct computer ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct workstations.
Additionally, postural abnormalities in adolescent years have been recognised as one of the sources of pain syndromes and early arthritis in adulthood. Therefore, posture should be checked and when needed, corrected in children before more significant problems develop.