Sunday, March 29, 2020

Making your home workstation safer
for you and your child

Some basic measures could help protect your family from avoidable aches, strains, eye health impacts and sleep disruptions while using the schools' digital devices at home. Some of the following suggestions also relate to the potential for these devices to cause fires. Be careful.

This is not to be construed as medical advice. Consult your device manufacturer for explicit safety warnings and instructions.

However, the following suggestions have been culled over several years from a variety of professional sources identifying a broad number of associated health risks: 

Princeton Univ. (ergonomics; eyestrain)
HP's health & safety warnings
Dell's health and safety warnings
The Sleep Foundation (blue light & sleep)
Johnson & Johnson Vision (myopia)
Prevent Blindness (blue light)
American Heart Assoc.  (kids' screen time)
World Health Org. (gaming disorder)
OSHA/NIH (ergonomics checklist)
Oregon OSHA (improving work spaces)
Cornell University (children's ergonomics)

Hewlett Packard's information is extensive, and includes helpful videos - it's a very good resource.

According to Dell (a Chromebook manufacturer) laptops were never designed to be safe full-time workstations - they require modification to make them ergonomically safer.

1. The screen should be just below eye level. Depending on the height of the user and the relative height of the surface the device is resting on, it's likely you'll need a monitor stand to raise the screen to the proper level.

OSHA/NIH Graphic
This lightweight, inexpensive, adjustable, folding monitor stand can be found on Amazon. It easily adjusts to the height of any user.

2. Once the monitor is raised to the correct height, the keyboard is at an awkward angle, so an external keyboard is recommended, along with a mouse (not a scratchpad).

There are many options available - here is a lightweight, inexpensive external mouse and keyboard.

Now your laptop can be used in a manner that experts suggest might help you and your child avoid discomfort or injury.

1. Sit up straight at a table or desk, with feet flat on the floor
2. Keep arms at 90-degree angle
3. Adjust the device so that the top of the monitor is just below eye level
4. Keep monitor at least 15" from the face
5. To prevent glare, set up workstation perpendicular to windows (remove light sources from directly in front of, or behind, the monitor)
6. Blink. Keep blinking. Remind your kids to blink.
7. Take frequent breaks - stretch, get a drink of water... dance!
8. Turn off devices around sundown
9. Remove all devices from bedrooms at night
10. Consult your device manufacturer's health and safety warning documentation

1. Use devices on laps, or place on beds or cushions
2. Have screen closer than 15" from face
3. Look down at screen, or use device lying down on bed, couch or floor
4. Sit on feet, or sit slouched over device
5. Work for more than 30 minutes without a stretch/water - or dance!- break
6. Stare into monitor without blinking
7. Allow young kids to use devices without supervision, or rely on devices to keep kids occupied
8. Stay on devices - or allow kids to - close to bedtime
9. Put light source in front of or directly behind monitor
10. Allow or require kids to use devices without offering alternatives

As we all face unchartered waters in the coming days and weeks, it's especially important that our children have the benefit of every health and safety protection we can give them.

Cindy Eckard