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Guidelines

General Recommendations for Computer Use

The computer is going to be an important tool in students' lives. We need to pay attention to how the computer is introduced to ensure students learn useful strategies on how to set up their workstations and develop good work habits. Understanding and Implementing Ergonomic principles is a critical component in this learning process and need to be incorporated into all aspects of computer use in schools and at home.

General Recommendations

The student should be positioned in relation to the keyboard/mouse height.

 If the height of the keyboard/mouse can be adjusted:

  • Choose a chair position in which the student can sit with his/her feet fully supported on the floor.  The knees should not be higher than the hip joints as this places increased stress on the back tissues.
     
  • The keyboard/mouse should then be lowered so that when the elbows are bent to about 90 degrees and the upper arms are relaxed at the sides of the body, the keys are right under the fingers.

If the keyboard/mouse height is not adjustable:

  • A chair needs to be chosen that will place the student at a height such that when the elbows are bent to 90 degrees and the upper arms are relaxed at the sides of the body, the keys are right under the fingers.  For most children, this will mean use of a higher chair and their feet will not be supported. 
     
  • A footrest should then be added to support the feet.
     
  • Alternatively, find a lower surface to put the computer on.

  • Chair has been raised as high as possible and then a pillow has been added to increase sitting height even further so that keyboard is under fingers when upper arms are relaxed at sides and elbows are bent to about 90 degrees.
     
  • Wrists are straight
     
  • Upper arms are relaxed at the sides of the body.
     
  • A pillow has been added behind the back to decrease the depth of the seat
     
  • The feet are fully supported on a footrest

 

 

 

 

 

 

If the keyboard and mouse are too high, the student will have to reach up for the mouse. This posture places increased stress on the shoulder and neck tissues and tends to result in a bent wrist.

 

The mouse should be located next to the keyboard so that it is easy to reach. 

Most children do not use the number pad on the keyboard, so in the picture to the left, a platform to sit over the number pad was created by cutting out a corner of a sturdy shoe box.

 

The wrists should be straight when keying or using the mouse... not bent up, down or to the side.

 

The monitor should be directly in front of the student so that no neck twisting is required to view the screen. 

The top of the screen should be below eye level. 

 

 

 

 

 

The student should not have to bend his/her neck backwards to view the screen.  Watch that the chin doesn't poke out when using the computer.  This posture is hard on the neck tissues and may happen because the monitor is too far away or because the student is concentrating on whatever he/she is viewing.

 

Change position frequently (every 15-20 minutes). 

The above guidelines are to help set-up your computer positioning but any position that you stay in for too long will become uncomfortable for the body.  Our muscles and joints were designed to move to stay healthy so change your position at least every 15 to 20 minutes.  Even slouching is OK as long as you don't do it for too long.  Any position that you stay in for a long time is a bad one!  Here are some examples of sitting positions that still maintain the basic principles...head straight, wrists straight, upper arms relaxed at the side of the body.

 

Get up and move your body every 30 to 60 minutes

Every 30 to 60 minutes you should get up and walk or do another activity that involves moving your body.  This helps to increase circulation so that your muscles and other tissues get the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

 

  During your frequent changes of position, also take time to look as far away as possible for a few seconds.  This helps your eye muscles relax.

 Usually we blink without thinking about it regularly during the day to keep the eyes moist which helps them function properly.  When doing computer work, people don't blink as frequently which may result in dry, sore eyes so remember to blink more.

If your eyes feel uncomfortable or sore when working on the computer have an eye examination to make sure your eyes are healthy.  Increase or decrease the amount of light at your computer station if necessary.  Make sure there is no glare (bright spots of light) on your screen...check this when the monitor is turned off as it will be easy to see if there is glare on the black screen.

 

Make sure you drink water regularly over the day to help keep your body healthy.

 

What about using a laptop computer?

Children and young adults with small hands may find that the smaller laptop keyboard is easier to use than a regular keyboard.  Those with larger hands may find it uncomfortable. The basics shown for desktop computers above, also apply to laptop use...

  • Keep the upper arms relaxed at the side of the body
  • Bend the elbows to about 90 degrees
  • Keep the wrists straight
  • Change position every 15-20 minutes and take a complete break to get up and move your body every 30-60 minutes.

If your hands are large and using the laptop keyboard is uncomfortable, plug in a regular keyboard.  You can also plug in a regular mouse.

Some students will find that looking down at the laptop screen is comfortable while others may find that it bothers their neck.  If it bothers you, when you can, plug in a regular monitor and place it so that the top of the screen is at or below eye level.

Laptops are great for allowing you to change position...you don't always have to sit at a desk but keep the basics, above, in mind.  Here are just a couple of examples of ways to sit when using a laptop...

 


 
   
   
 
last updated Octover 4, 2006
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