Computers and Kids

Ergoweb reports:

Young people of the digital age need to know how to prevent pain from using their tools and toys. A new ergonomics campaign and web site shows them the way.

Many everyday activities of today’s youngsters – texting, playing on games consoles, watching TV, sitting and talking to friends on the phone, using a computer – can result in pain. The Move It! organization in New Zealand has launched a campaign and web site by the same name to highlight the risks.

The campaign, devised with the help of Professor Stephen Legg from New Zealand’s Centre for Ergonomics, Occupational Safety and Health, includes an interactive online game that teaches youngsters working or playing on any of the tools and toys of the digital age how to move the body and the things around them to increase comfort and avoid pain.

“Aches and pains caused by huddling around computers are a part of everyday life now, and not just for adults,” say the Move It! organizers in a November 19 article published by Massey University in New Zealand. “Adults get a lot of messages about office exercises and overcoming discomfort, pain and injury … Kids just don’t get those messages as regularly. The aim of ‘Move It’ is to encourage good life-long habits for avoiding issues in the future.”

I say:

Although a well intended and much needed campaign, I question its ability to result in any real changes in kids’ behavior.  Judging by the way many adults respond to ergonomic advice, I imagine kids will be even less receptive to it.  The reality is, when kids are deeply involved with instant messaging and gaming, the last thing they want is for someone to tell them to rearrange their desk space and maintain a proper posture.

Besides trying to raise awareness that kids need to improve their computer using behavior, product designers need to keep little people in mind.  When young kids’ bodies are developing is when it is most important that they don’t form bad habits.  You can’t expect a 5 year old kid to know about ergonomics, but you can expect there to be products that make it safer for them to begin their life long love affair with computers and technology.

Which brings up another point: besides teaching kids to sit at and use their computers more ergonomically, what about teaching them to get away from computers entirely?  By the time kids enter their teen and adult years they will be spending from 20 to 60 % of their time in front of a computer.

So what is the rush?  Before kids are forced to use computers for school and work, why not encourage them to develop interests in other areas?  Kids today are literally addicted to TV, video games, and computers.  This is an indication of a lifetime of back pain, repetitive stress and muscular skeletal injuries to come.

Related articles:

Kids and Computer Use

Kids Need Pint Sized Computers