Kids Need Computer Safety Too, spring 2001

If you work in an office, you're probably aware of the precautions you should take to avoid back strain and repetitive-stress injuries. You know that you need to sit up straight, place your monitor directly ahead of you and make sure your chair is up to snuff. Maybe your boss has posted an OSHA poster or two in the lunchroom.

But us office drones aren't the only ones at risk for injuries at the hands of a mouse and a keyboard. What about all those little video-game fanatics at home? Who's monitoring their ergonomic safety?

If your kids are big computer users, you need to keep an eye on their habits. Do they sit up straight? Are they far enough away from the screen? Are they straining their necks or wrists because their chair is too low?

If you see your proto-programmer contorting his- or herself to do battle for the salvation of the galaxy, it's time for a little talk. Explain the importance of posture when you're using the computer. Encourage your child to take regular breaks, and point out the need to avoid 12-hour gaming sessions.

Then, it's your turn to make some changes. Buy a chair that your child can use comfortably, and provide a footstool if his or her legs don't reach the ground. Provide good lighting and make sure that the monitor is placed in a comfortable position.

Remember, computers will most likely be an even larger part of your child's life than they are of yours. Now's the time to encourage good habits and avoid injuries that might sideline them before they're even out of high school.