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Healthy Computer Use: Eyestrain and Back Pain

And you thought eyestrain and back pain were just for adults? Kids who spend lots of time on their computer, both at school and at home, can run into these problems, too. You can help protect your kids' health by following these tips, reprinted from Jane Healy's book Failure to Connect: Why Computers Are Damaging Our Children's Minds And What We Can Do About It (Simon & Schuster). Why not share these tips with your kids' teachers?

The eyes have it

  • Use desk lights instead of ceiling lights. Place the computer at a right angle to windows and install curtains or blinds if glare persists. Be alert for "flicker" from any source: it may cause headaches, eyestrain, and even epileptic seizures in people who are susceptible.
  • Teach children to take frequent "eye breaks" -- totaling about 15 minutes off for every hour of computer use. In addition, have them take a 10-second break every 10 minutes. They can rest their eyes by walking around or shifting their gaze to look at far distances.
  • Staring can strain the eyes. Remind your child to blink frequently. When we stare at a computer screen for too long, our eyes lose lubrication and may become irritated. If your child uses a computer regularly, be sure he or she has a vision checkup every year.

Watch the posture

  • Encourage kids to use good posture when working at the computer, sitting straight on a well-fitted chair, and resting wrists on a desk.
  • Workstations in schools should be adjustable for different-sized students. Look for chairs with adjustable seats, adjustable-height work surfaces or separate keyboard trays, keyboards at elbow-height, and possibly adjustable footrests.
  • If your child's feet don't reach the floor, try boxes, blocks, or telephone books as a footrest.
  • Encourage your child to change positions frequently to avoid fatigue. Simply walking around the room rests both eyes and body.
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