Expert Iconexpert advice MORE

Too Many Hours at the Computer?

Pediatrics Expert Advice from Henry Bernstein, M.D.

Q: My son spends four to six hours a day working at his computer at home. If we include school time, the total comes to nearly eight or nine hours a day. My husband and I are starting to worry that this could somehow be harmful to him. Are there dangers to this much computer use?

A: Potential problems have been noted for the many children who do spend hours at school and at home in front of a computer. There are complaints of eye discomfort following the use of computers for long periods, which causes eye strain, but tends to get better with rest. Levels of radiation exposure from the display monitor are well below those required to produce eye damage, even after prolonged exposure.

It is also possible that repeated overuse of a muscle group could cause muscle strain and pain. This happens mostly because children learn unhealthy computer habits. They tend to use adult-size workstations and furniture, and then develop awkward positions to compensate. Kids may dangle their legs from the chair, sit with their backs hunched over, lift their chins toward the monitor (usually above eye-level), and reach up to click the mouse. These habits, if not corrected, can lead to troubling symptoms and possible disability. We can help by encouraging good posture with feet planted comfortably on the floor (or put something on the floor under the feet), keeping the mouse at elbow height, and lowering the monitor to eye level. A height-adjustable keyboard may be a relatively inexpensive answer. You might even include instructions on your screensaver to remind your child of good work habits.

In addition, computer use seems to play a role in the trend of increasing obesity in children. Use of television, video games, and computer games leads to less physical activity. Snacking also tends to occur more frequently in children who remain in front of computer or TV screens. Besides encouraging more regular physical activity, limiting screen time to a certain number of after-school hours per day or only for homework is a good place to start.

More on: Expert Advice

Henry Bernstein, M.D., is currently the associate chief of the Division of General Pediatrics and director of Primary Care at Children's Hospital, Boston. He also has an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


Special Books for the Kids You Love
Celebrate 20 years of sharing love to the moon and back with the anniversary edition of Guess How Much I Love You, one of the world’s best-loved picture books. Plus, search our Book Finder for more great book picks. Brought to you by Candlewick Press.

Vote Now for the Children's & Teen Choice Book Awards
Voting is open now through May 3 for the Children's and Teen Choice Book Awards — the only national book awards program where the winning author, illustrator, and books of the year are selected by young readers. Encourage your child to vote for his favorites today!

Top 10 Math & Science Apps for Your Whiz Kid
Looking for the best math and science apps for kids? Check out these cool apps for all ages, which will grow your child's love of the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and math).

Registered for Kindergarten — Now What?
Wondering what to do now that you've signed your child up for kindergarten? Try our award-winning Kindergarten Readiness app! This easy-to-use checklist comes with games and activities to help your child build essential skills for kindergarten. Download the Kindergarten Readiness app today!

stay connected

Sign up for our free email newsletters and receive the latest advice and information on all things parenting.

Enter your email address to sign up or manage your account.

Facebook icon Facebook icon Follow Us on Pinterest

editor’s picks