Ergonomics for kids, more important now than ever before
Between remote school, extra home time, and recreational electronics, kids are being set up for some serious ergonomic injuries. Ergonomics isn't just important for adults; it's important for kids, too.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is a scientific field that designs spaces and movements for humans. it's about being safe, especially when performing repetitive movements, so that you don't develop injuries.
Common ergonomic injuries include carpal tunnel, back pain, neck pain, and even eye strain. Over time, these can result in permanent injury to the body, and they may require surgery to fix.
Right now, ergonomic injuries cost the United States more than $54 billion a year, and that number is about to increase significantly. With more people working from home at makeshift desks and computer stations, ergonomics has fallen by the wayside, but the risk for injury is still there.
Why ergonomics for kids?
Kids have never spent as much time using screens as they are doing today, right now. Schools all over the world have closed their doors, and children are learning via laptops at home. It isn't realistic to expect every family to have a proper and ergonomically sound work station for each child.
However, kids are already suffering from the lack of ergonomic oversight. The two biggest ergonomic issues for kids include
eye strain and
Eye strain can be very painful for children, and they likely won't recognize the source of the issue: too much screen time. Kids are being asked to use screens for nearly everything right now.
Kids should take eye breaks (time away from screens) about every hour. An eye break should consist of looking at least 20 feet into the distance in order to allow the eye muscles to relax. This should be done for at least 20 seconds.
If eye breaks don't happen routinely, eyes become strained. This causes headaches and blurry vision. Over time, the eye muscles aren't able to relax as easily, and vision problems develop.
You can help your child by setting a timer to remind them to take eye breaks. Also, you can dim the light setting on the screen. This will reduce the intensity and help minimize eye strain.
Neck pain is just as common as eye strain for kids. This ergonomic issue comes up because kids aren't used to sitting still for so long. They may find themselves in bed, on the floor, and slumped at their desk. When learning from a screen, kids tend to drop their chins and let their heads hang. This puts enormous strain on their necks.
This too can cause headaches, but it can also cause back pain. The body is connected, and when one area is out of whack, other areas become overworked to compensate. The result is an achy child who can't concentrate well.
Ergonomics and school performance
Kids who suffer from ergonomic injuries have a hard time sleeping and concentrating. It's no wonder they don't do as well in school. They are physically uncomfortable.
As families adjust to remote school, it's important to check in on your child's ergonomics. Small tweaks can go a long way in keeping them healthy. Here are a few tips.
Keep feet flat on the floor, adjust chair if needed
Make computer screen eye level
Add a mouse if using a laptop
Add a keyboard if using a laptop
Set a timer for eye breaks every hour
Adjust the desk height to keep arms at 90-degree angles
Encourage exercise and muscle-building activities
Screens and electronics are here to stay, so we parents have to learn to find the good in them and prevent the bad. Ergonomic injury is definitely the bad, so make sure to teach your child about ergonomic wellness.