Take Safety Home: Tips to Keep Kids Healthy with Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the science of designing work spaces to prevent injury and promote health, safety, productivity, and comfort.  With children spending more time at home these days focused on computers or devices, for homework, gaming, or just chatting with their friends, it’s important to make sure they’re sitting, and also moving correctly.

For both adults and kids, musculoskeletal disorders, including back, neck and shoulder pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome, related to the use of technology are the most prevalent. They’re also one of the most preventable workspace-related injuries.  Proper work station set up is vital preventing these disorders and ensuring that kids of all ages practice good posture early to prevent more serious problems in the future.  

As children increase their daily use of these devices it’s important to understand “proper body mechanics”, BEFORE their body positioning becomes problematic. Poor positioning can have a severe impact on the body during prolonged use of electronic devices.

Using ergonomics practices, you can help your child establish healthy habits to reduce stress and minimize the risk of injuries associated with the overuse of muscles, bad posture, and repetitive tasks.

Here are our top recommendations to keep kids health with ergonomics:

Practice the 90°-90°-90° Rule of Ergonomics (see photo above)

Remember the 90°-90°-90° rule. Right angles at the knees, hips, and elbows.  Sitting in this position prevents strain in the back and shoulders, and helps prevents muscle and joint strain.

Encourage your child to keep his or her elbows bent about 90° when using a keyboard. Adjust the keyboard and workspace accordingly.

Arm placement is important.  Forearms should be parallel to the floor, with the elbow at 90-100 degrees. Some computer chairs have adjustable arm rests to accommodate for everyone in the family.  The keyboard and mouse should be directly under the fingers when elbows are bent to about 90 degrees with upper arms relaxed. Make sure the child’s wrists stay straight online, and do not bend up, down or to the side; this helps prevent carpal tunnel syndrome.

Move Toward a Neutral Posture

Remind your child to sit in a comfortable upright position. They should keep their hips approximately at 90° and feet resting flat on the floor or on a footrest.

Consider purchasing a stand for devices. It will allow your child to position a tablet or other device upright, or eye level.  As a result, it frees up your child’s hands and keeps their head and neck looking forward, in a neutral position.

Get an external keyboard for your child to use with his or her iPad or tablet to encourage proper typing skills. Additionally, this will help keep your child’s head, neck, and hands in a healthier position, while maintaining the device in an upright position.

Take a Break Every 20-30 Minutes

As much as possible, especially with virtual learning, encourage a short posture and screen breaks every 20-30 minutes. Remind your child to take small breaks to change their positioning, shift tasks, and perform stretches.

Focus on Eyes

Eyes should be parallel with the top of the computer screen to decrease the chance for straining the neck. Also, rest the eyes. A general rule of thumb is 20-20: stare at a blank wall 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will help decrease eye strain and headaches which are becoming more prevalent with increased screen time.

Have your child look away from the screen and change their focal point from near to far. Also, remind them to blink!

Get Up and Stretch

Stretch and move while working on the computer — with head rolls, shoulder rolls, or marching in place while seated, to decrease pressure on different parts of the body.

If your child starts to exhibit signs of fatigue, headaches, or cramping in the neck, back, shoulders or forearms, intervene early to prevent these issues from developing.

Click below for additional information and resources to help you and your family stay safe and healthy, while managing virtual learning and increased screen time.