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Ergonomics Becoming an Issue for Elementary Children

In a recent study by the University of Rochester students from grades sixth through eight were asked whether they had been experiencing any physical symptoms from computer use either at home or at school. Forty-seven percent reported wrist discomfort; 44 percent reported neck pain; 43 percent reported vision problems and 41 percent claimed to have experienced hand problems.

In a recent five-part series titled, “The Working Wounded” MSNBC included the subject of children and ergonomics. Their surveys indicated that fourth-graders spent 9 percent of their time on computers and this figure jumped to 19 percent by the time they reached 12th grade. In late 2001 The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) established a committee named Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments. Objectives set out by the committee include:

Defining strategies to inexpensively retrofit of redesign existing furniture used in computer environments at home, and in schools, libraries, children’s museums and other educational environments;

Promoting the development of ergonomic design guidelines (or codes of practice) for software, hardware, furniture, classrooms, computer rooms, school libraries and other educational environments.

The Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish, Washington has initiated an innovative ergonomic program for children in which the students learn to manipulate their working environment to accommodate their own physical needs. Diane Tien, the school’s instructional technology assistant worked with leading experts in children’s ergonomics to develop the program. The program teaches the children about the importance of maintaining correct posture and minimizing awkward postures while working at the computer and encourages them to take frequent breaks from the computer.

Sources:

1) Michael, R. “Ergonomics for Elementary School Students” Online posting.1 July 2002.
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