The overwhelming majority of Australian schools embrace technologies such as tablets and computers within the school curriculum. As a result, physiotherapists are seeing an influx of youth health and wellbeing issues that are directly related to poor ergonomic practices. According to health professionals at a2z Health Group, “Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the neck, back, hands and shoulders”.
Part of the problem is the fact that most workstations are designed for adults and do not cater to young people. When children use the home office to complete homework, the setup of the workstation may not be suitable to someone of their height and general proportions, which can lead to unnecessary back, neck, and eye strain. Or, as in most modern households, they will probably just plonk themselves down somewhere in the house with a laptop – which generally fails to comply with healthy ergonomic habits.
Bad Ergonomics Is A Real Pain In The Neck
“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.” – a2z Health Group.
When it comes to good posture and sedentary practises, anyone can fall into bad habits. Throughout the work day it is easy to find yourself slouching down in your chair or craning forward across your desk to look at your screen. While these behaviours often seem harmless, evidence suggests that prolonged sedentary periods and poor ergonomic habits can have serious health consequences. In the short term, bad posture can cause cramps, eye strain, muscle spasms, and acute shoulder, back and neck pain. A 2015 article featured in The Wall Street Journal states that, “some ergonomics experts warn that too much standing also can have negative effects on health, including a greater risk for varicose veins, back and foot problems, and carotid artery disease.”
According to Sumathi Reddy, health & wellbeing columnist for the Wall Street Journal, bad ergonomics is far more than just an occasional pain in the neck: it can increase the risk of developing chronic conditions, ranging from “cancer and diabetes to cardiovascular disease and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease”.
Expert Ergonomic Workstation
To help reduce the possibility that your child suffers the effects of bad ergonomics, physiotherapists give the following advice:
Ensure that your child’s workstation is modified to fit their needs: when sitting at a desk children should be able to have their feet flat on the floor, shoulders relaxed, and back properly supported by the chair they’re sitting in
Position the monitor so the top of the screen is at or below your child’s eye level
Make sure the chair is suitable for your child: this means, an ergonomic back cushion and two inches between the back of their knees and the front edge of the seat. The chair should have arm supports so their elbows rest within a 70 to 135 degree angle of the keyboard.
Wrists should remain in a neutral position when typing, not angled up or down
To help reduce eye strain, make sure there is adequate lighting and monitor screen has no glare
Enforce regular eye breaks and periodic breaks from sitting: encourage your child to stand up, do stretches and walk around the room at least hourly – if not more
Finally, urge your child’s school to provide education on correct computer ergonomics and to comply with ergonomic standards with in-class workstations