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In addition to improving the workstation design at home (consult Children and Safe Computing, by Maureen Clancy, to learn the correct setup for your child):

Encourage regular breaks from the computer to stretch all upper body muscles, including the eyes. If children use the computer for a long period of time without taking a break, they are at great risk for developing a repetitive strain injury. Use a timer or install software to alert your child to take a break to stretch every 30 minutes for one minute. Stretching not only relaxes tired muscles, but also brings them necessary blood and oxygen.

Protect children's vision by providing soft light, encouraging the use of large font sizes, and visiting an eye care professional regularly.

Provide tools that fit children's hands. A smaller keyboard is better for some children, and some like to use a trackball rather than a mouse. Logitech and Kensington make a small mouse and a trackball with a small ball. The Goldtouch keyboard is an excellent option for children as well as adults. Datadesk also makes a smaller keyboard, Little Fingers, that includes a trackball. (See Resources for suppliers.)

ergo kids
Safe Computer Workstation Design

What You Can Do at School

What You Can Do at Home

Stretches for Kids

Resources for Kids

Encourage relaxed, comfortable, neutral posture. Children may not be aware of the position of their bodies. Observe your children's posture, show them pictures of neutral posture and adjust the workstation so they are not in a stressful position.

Organize the work area. A work area is the space that can easily be reached by children while they are sitting comfortably in their chair without having to bend or twist their bodies. Place items children use most while working at the computer -- books, paper, etc -- within easy reach in the work area.

Teach children how to adjust the chair, monitor, and keyboard/mouse height to be comfortable. This is especially important when an entire family shares a computer.

Teach keyboarding and mousing skills. Children should move their entire arm to reach the keys and mouse, rather than stretch and twist. They should keep their hands in line with their forearms (i.e., they should never twist their hands or bend their wrists while they type or use the mouse), with their fingers relaxed below their wrists. Finally, they should use as light a touch as possible while keyboarding. Too much pressure can damage the forearms and hands. A light touch requires a relaxed body.

As described in Children and Safe Computing, try this to improve technique:

  1. Have your child sit at the computer and open the word processing software.
  2. Ask your child to move his/her entire right arm like a pivot from the elbow to press the Enter key.
  3. Repeat with other keys such as the Shift key, the Control key and the Tab key.
  4. Have your child type his or her name and days of the week. The wrists should not be resting on the wristrest or desk while the child types. Instead, the hands should be "floating" across the keys.
  5. Now have your child move the entire eight or left arm from the shoulder to reach the mouse that should be right next to the keyboard.
  6. Ask your child to highlight his/her name by moving the entire arm to move the mouse, not by resting the wrist on the desk or wristrest and twisting the hand.

Another crucial point to discuss is the use of proper force to depress keys. Too much pressure can damage the forearms and hands. A light touch requires a relaxed body. A tense body will increase the risk of injury. To help your child become more sensitive to this, have him/her type the following two sentences while you observe the amount of force used:

  1. I do not need to pound the keys.
  2. I will use the lightest touch possible when pressing the keys.

Ask your child to type the same sentences again, only this time using the lightest touch possible to get the letters to appear on the screen.

Other safe keyboard tips include:

  1. Move the keyboard over to the left if the child is going to be using the mouse exclusively, for example, during a computer game or interactive program that is mouse intensive.
  2. Teach your child how to avoid the mouse by using keyboard commands.

Teaching childrem good computer habits now will protect them from a future of painful injury.

Safe Computer Workstation Design
What You Can Do at School
Stretches for Kids
Resources for Kids

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