Good Posture Today or a Visit to the Physio Tomorrow?

According to the A2Z Health Group, ‘At least 70% of Australia’s school students use computers. As a result of this increased usage, Physiotherapists are treating more young patients suffering from the effects of working at computer stations that are either designed for adults or poorly designed for children. Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders.’

Since a child’s developing bones are more malleable than an adult’s bones, it is important for a child’s health that they learn to consciously correct their posture through good habits and balance the use of digital technology with active exercise. 

After decades of research on human biomechanics, medical experts have pinpointed three categories of computer ­related concerns, both in traditional personal computer use and with the touchscreen devices. These include;

  • Neck and Back strain caused by unnatural postures and forces.
  • Eye Strain due to poor screen positioning and extended use.
  • Repeated motion injuries from recurrent large or small movements.

Recent Australian and international studies reveal that between 36% and 60% of children experience pain or discomfort when using computers or digital devices. If families do not adopt good ergonomic practices, there may be potentially long term repercussions for a child. In many classrooms, students are using furniture ill-suited for their size, height or learning requirements without instruction on best ergonomic practice. 

What can you do?

To reduce the possibility of your child suffering painful and possibly disabling injuries, Physiotherapists suggest the following tips:

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 sure 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 135-degree angle to the computer keyboard.
  • Wrists should be held in a neutral position while typing – not angled up or down. The mousing surface should be close to the keyboard so your child doesn’t have to reach or hold the arm away from the body.
  • The child’s knees should be positioned at an approximate 90- to 120-degree angle. To accomplish this angle, feet can be placed on a foot rest, box, stool or similar object.
  • Reduce eye strain by making sure there is adequate lighting and that there is no glare on the monitor screen. Use an antiglare screen if necessary.
  • Limit your child’s time at the computer and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks during computing time.
  • Your child’s muscles need adequate hydration to work properly and avoid injury. Encourage your child to drink four to eight glasses of water a day. Carbonated beverages, juices and other sweet drinks are not a substitute.
  • Urge your child’s school to provide education on correct computer ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct workstations.

Talk to your child openly about the importance of good ergonomics and forming good posture habits, and why this will benefit them in the long-term. Encourage them to ask questions about best practice and ask them to come to you if they experience any pain. Remember that younger children are unlikely to recognise this pain, while older children can. 

In today’s digital world, the importance of fostering good ergonomic practices in children is undeniable. Helping your child to recognise good and poor posture and empowering positive habits will help protect their body from short-term and long-term damage. Instilling children with these habits will support their future wellbeing and help generations to come to manage and minimise the potential negative impacts of digital technology on their bodies.

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