Article by Daniel Osborn, D.C.
In our tech savvy society, we are constantly considering our own workplace ergonomics. You may have a standing desk, an ergonomic mouse and keyboard, an anti-fatigue mat, a lumbar support pillow, and a proper office chair. Now that we are mostly working from home our ergonomic situation has become a bit stickier. Most of us have converted to a dinner table and a laptop. Even worse, most children are now out of school until the fall and are left in a similar situation. Many kids will be working from a laptop or tablet and will be doing so at a dinner table, couch, or bed. These factors place an inordinate amount of stress and strain on a child’s developing spine which are already under more strain than previous generations have ever been due to the technology we surround them with. Keeping our kids healthy is important now more than ever and these are habits that can translate even after the shackles of this global pandemic are lifted.
Manage the time kids are using their computers. Time flies when you’re working or playing on a computer. Taking breaks to move around every 30 minutes is essential for maintaining physical health while educating and working at home. We use a certain set of muscles when we sit in a certain position. Changing positions on a regular basis gives these muscles a break and decreases the chances of fatigue related injuries to them. We are all familiar with upper back and neck strain caused by excessive sitting. Our children are not immune to these same injuries. Taking breaks are a must. There are free applications available that can remind you and your kids when it is time to take a break. Alternatively, you can simply set a timer to buzz every 30 minutes as a reminder to get up and move around, perform a stretch or exercise, switch activities, or change positions. Looking at a computer screen all day also places excessive strain on our eyes. Encourage your kids to look at different objects throughout the day. Have them catalog objects around the house or keep track of the plants and animals visible from a window.
Create a schedule with varying activities. At school our children have breaks and changes in activity built into their daily schedule. This is easily forgotten when we are cooped up indoors. When every task our kids need to perform instantly revolves around one device, the need to consistently change activities is easily discarded. Encourage your children to move to a different part of the house or apartment whenever they switch to a different subject. Math in the living room, English in the dining room, Art in the bedroom, etc. Recess doesn’t need to disappear just because we are all working from home, host mini-workout classes from your kids, or go for a walk around the neighborhood together. Another idea is to alter the way in which your kids are using their computers or tablets. If they are using a mouse and keyboard have them switch to using the touch pad or touch screen, there is also software available for voice activation. This not only helps your children become more tech savvy, but also changes the way in which they engage with their technology throughout the day which will change their ergonomics and body position.
Lead by example. If you follow along with these ergonomic changes not only will your kids be more apt to follow your lead, you’ll improve your own ergonomics in the process. Regardless of if you or your kids are suffering from spinal or neuromusculoskeletal issues this preventative maintenance will ensure a happier and healthier experience while homeschooling.