Laptops, phones and other portable devices allow us to study, work and communicate virtually anywhere.
It is important for students to consider their posture and workstation regularly, especially as their musculoskeletal systems develop. Parents and teachers need to offer guidance to their students and children in school and home environments.
“It’s vital we instil good habits and provide resources so children can be comfortable, be able to concentrate, reach their full potential and work and play sport as they decide, and not be limited by preventable disability and pain.”
(Binhoga & Korhan, 2014).
Here are a couple of areas you should be looking at with your student or child:
- Change your posture at frequent intervals to minimise fatigue. Whilst set workstations are best for focused or project work, for other activities sit, stand, even lie for short periods. Move around and mix it up.
- Be aware. You can unconsciously use devices in awkward positions not realising the pressures put on your body.
- Avoid postures at the extremes of the joint range, especially the wrists.
- Take frequent short rest breaks rather than infrequent longer ones. Ten minutes away from your devices every hour is a general recommendation.
- If you feel discomfort or fatigue, stop, take a break and look again at your postures.
- Observe children’s postures, particularly when they are distracted by their technology.
- Remind children to take frequent breaks – help set up healthy patterns for life.
- Spend a moment before you start to set up your workstation. This diagram shows the ideal set-up however, when you do not have all the resources available there are some alternative options you can use.
- When purchasing new furniture, choose items that are adjustable, flexible and easily portable to fit in with children’s constantly changing size, environment and needs.
- Consider a monitor, detached keyboards or mouse for greater flexibility if the laptop is intended for an extended time. Laptops were originally designed for short periods of use. When we use small device controls we are relying on smaller muscles and tendons to perform intense, repetitive work
- Arrange equipment to achieve correct student posture. Simple measures can include using big books or blocks as a footstool so little legs can rest on the ground comfortably. Use books to raise the laptop height so that it is in line with their eyes. Adjust the chair height or use a cushion to bring their arms level with the table.
- Offer smaller children trackballs instead of a mouse or different keyboards.
Whilst this article highlights a couple of areas of ergonomics, there are many more factors that play a part in student ergonomics. Some of these include user technique, planning, glare and reflection, smaller device use such as smartphones and watches.
It is fair to say that portable devices are one of the most important tools in students’ lives. We need to be aware of how they are introduced to ensure students develop good work habits and are equipped with an understanding of ergonomic principles both at school and at home.
education.qld.gov.au/smartclassroom – Helpful home and classroom tips as well as ergonomic fact sheets.