We’re breeding a generation of young people who will be using tablets, phones and laptops at an earlier age than any ever before.
But however scary it is that a three-year-old can tap away at an iPad after entering his mum’s pin number – ‘who taught him THAT!’ – it’s more their physical health that we should be concerned with, rather than our compromised privacy.
Of course, that is an issue, but that’s for another blog. In this one, we want to be sure that your young people aren’t storing up health problems for later in life.
The current breed of laptops and tablets encourages casual use while sprawled on settees, while lying in bed, or while sitting at kitchen breakfast bars.
But to avoid strain on muscles, joints and eyes have a properly set-up desk for longer periods of working. Study and homework should be carried out at a proper desk with a comfortable chair, ensuring that eyes are looking up and out rather than down, otherwise hunched shoulders, aching necks and damaged elbows and wrists will follow.
Bear in mind that as children grow, so their desks and chairs will need to be adapted too.
• Choice of machine
Desktop computers are still best for longer periods of working. Laptops and notebooks are appealing but it’s much harder to get the monitor in a good position. And if laptops are used on … well, laps … beware of the heat coming off the machine. Use a specially made stand or tray.
Just as children have their first taste of riding a bike on one that’s their size, the same should apply with computers. You can buy keyboards and mice that are designed for smaller hands and fingers, so take the trouble to shop around for suitable equipment.
This will not only make it easier for them but it will be healthier.
Frequent breaks are key to operating any machinery safely and the same applies to computers. Most mobile phones have a timer which can help alert you that it’s break time. If not, set the dinger on the oven to remind everyone that it’s time to leave the screen and keyboard for a stretch and some fresh air.
Encourage other activities other than computer games. Rather than playing tennis on the Wii how about a proper game of badminton in the garden?
• Not too late
Establish good working patterns for finishing at the computer well ahead of bedtime. If the brain is still fizzing with activity – whether that be a game or some homework – it’s much harder to get to sleep.
Set a good example yourself, because young people learn behaviour from their parents.