92% 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, physios are treating more young patients suffering from unhealthy computing behaviours, which can include frequent and long durations of exposure; awkward postures due to inappropriate furniture and workstation layout, and ignoring any 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 harmful physical effects that can last a lifetime. Parents need to be just as concerned about their children’s interaction with their computer workstations as they are with any activities that may affect their children’s long-term health.
To reduce the possibility of your child suffering painful and possibly disabling injuries, Physiotherapists 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 child’s 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 firm pillows or phone books 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 135degree 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 corrected in children before more serious problems can occur.