With the number of hours that students are spending on computers these days, it is important that they learn how to use them properly, so that they avoid damage to their bodies. Here are guidelines that can help prevent health problems.
Guidelines for Teachers:
- For younger children: Make sure that workstations are comfortable to use and will not cause children long-lasting health problems. For information on the extent and seriousness of the health issues involved, see the Canada Safety Council. A visual representation of the how-to's can be found on the International Ergonomics Association website.
- For older students: The precautions are much the same for older students as for those in the primary grades. To find an online checklist to help you evaluate the ergonomics of your classroom workstations, go to U.S. Department of Labour's workstation checklist.
- For user-friendly , step-by-step illustrations of exercises to reduce body stress at the computer, go to "Typing Games - Limb & Body Stress Education exercises" at nimblefingers.com. The use of animation and music makes these illustrations appealing to all ages. (nimblefingers.com is also an excellent resource on keyboarding skills for beginners, especially for early years and middle years students.)
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Guidelines for Students:
Computers are great, but they can give you a headache, if you aren't careful. They can also give you sore wrists, sore eyes, and a sore back. That's a lot of soreness! To avoid the pain, do the following:
- Sit up straight - don't lean toward or away from the computer. Your feet should be on the floor or on a footrest.
- Don't sit too close to the monitor, which should be at about eye level and at least 60 cm (2 feet) away from your eyes.
- Don't stare at the screen. (Blink often. Look away from the monitor. Focus on a distant object.)
- Don't pound on the keys. It's not good for your hands or for the keyboard.
- Take regular breaks (every 15 to 30 minutes) to loosen up your muscles and to rest your eyes. (Stand up and stretch. Move around.) You can find great illustrations of all kinds of exercises at nimblefingers.com. The site uses animation and music to make your learning more enjoyable.
- Make sure that the mouse is within easy reach, handle it gently, and take regular breaks, if you are using it a great deal.
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Guidelines for Parents:
To ensure that your children avoid aches and pains when using a computer, set up the computer station, so that:
- Your children's feet are firmly on the floor or on a footrest.
- Their backs are straight and the chair supports the lower back.
- Their wrists are in a comfortable position - not stretched.
- Their elbows are at a ninety degree angle to the body.
- Their arms are close to the sides of their bodies, so that the wrists don't bend.
- The top of the monitor is at the level of a child's forehead.
- The monitor is right in front and about 60 cm (2 feet) from the child.
For more detailed information on good body positioning, go to Kidstation.
Find out about the injuries that can be caused by poor posture and typing habits at healthycomputing.com. This site also looks at injuries caused by backpacks, gaming units, and mobile devices.
The Cornell University Ergonomics website features a set of guidelines for parents of school children. It discusses the risks of keyboarding in general, but scroll down to Topics 4 ("workstation exercises") and 5 ("So, you don't have the ideal workstation, huh?"), which are especially informative. No. 5 contains tips on inexpensive ways to improve your workstation.
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For Further Information:
- The Coal City, Illinois School website has some good information on ergonomics.
- See healthycomputing.com for information on office ergonomics. See especially "Buyers' Guides" for information on purchasing what is ergonomically right for your workstation.
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Last updated : 17 July 2007
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