The kids are now solidly back in school, and you know what that means: even more typing and thumb swiping for those little fingers and wrists than ever before. Between school iPad initiatives and book reports, students are now just as highly at risk for developing Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSIs) like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as their desk jockey parents. And just as these types of injuries can derail concentration, productivity, and creativity in the workplace, so, too, can they do the same in school.
The best solution: when office working parents themselves are a good ergonomic model of integrity. Here are a few excellent areas to focus on.
1. How You Type
Students and professionals alike do a lot of typing these days. Unfortunately, many of us do so on traditional flat keyboards. This straight design forces us to splay our hands to the sides in order to reach the keys. This puts pressure on our wrists and joints, which can increase our risk of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. And of course, the longer we spend typing each day, the greater these risks become. Ultimately, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome can not only derail work but also result in the need for Carpal Tunnel surgery, which is fun for neither parents nor students.
Instead of typing on a traditional, flat keyboard, opt for an ergonomic keyboard with a split design. These keyboards pull apart in the middle and tent vertically so that each user can find the perfect angle for them. What is that perfect angle? It’s the one that allows you to type with your wrists in a neutral position, without splaying up, down, or to the sides. This takes the pressure off of your wrists, therefore decreasing your risk of straining or injuring yourself. For these reasons, typing on a split ergonomic keyboard both at the office and at home is a great way to be an ergonomic model, showing comfortable and productive typing behavior for your student.
2. How You Mouse
Mousing, just like typing, is a repetitive motion that can wreak havoc on your hands and wrists, and can even have negative consequences radiating up into your shoulders, arms, and neck. Some ergonomic mice alleviate this pain by providing ample support for your hands and wrists. Other ergonomic mice called vertical mice do this by rotating your hands into a handshake position, which offers a much more natural way of navigating. Both types of mice place all buttons easily within reach for a wide variety of hands so that they’re easy to click without strain.
While it can be difficult to find a mouse that fits your student’s smaller hand, there are many size adjustable mice on the market. Regardless, mousing consistently with an external mouse rather than with a trackpad is a good way to be an ergonomic model and set the right example; trackpads create among the greatest amounts of strain.
3. How You Use Your Tablet and Laptop
Both tablets and laptops are convenient, mobile, and fun to use, which is why so many students and working professionals today rely upon them. But they take a real toll on your body. The problem is all in that anchored screen. With both types of devices, the screen and the keyboard are part of one fluid device, which means one will always be in a less than ideal position. Place a laptop in your lap, for example, and the keyboard will be at the right height for you, but the screen won’t. You’ll have to hunch over your laptop or at least crane your neck downwards as you struggle to read what’s there. Place your laptop screen at exactly the right height so your neck cranes neither up nor down and the keyboard will be out of alignment for your wrists and hands.
The easy solution: a laptop and tablet stand. Just slide your laptop or tablet into the stand so that you can raise and lower the screen to exactly the right level. Then attach or sync an ergonomic keyboard and an ergonomic mouse to it, and voila! You have all the convenience of a mobile workstation with the ergonomics of a desktop. Again, this kind of healthy, ergonomic approach is important to display. Be an ergonomic model whether you’re working in your home office or at the kitchen counter.
4. How Long You Spend Staring
Staring all day at a screen is sure to get you a case of Computer Vision Syndrome, the symptoms of which include itchy eyes, blurred eyesight, a stiff neck, eye fatigue, and tension headaches. Keeping screens an arm’s length away is a good first preventative measure to take. However, the best thing you can do is to take regular eye breaks. At least once every 45 minutes, set a reminder to look away from your screen — ideally a more distant point, since you’ve been staring for so long at points that are relatively near to you. This will force your eye muscles to work in different ways, rejuvenating the tired muscles and drawing on the rested ones. Get your student into the habit of doing the same.
5. Your Frequency of Use
How long and how often you use your devices for matters a great deal. While you may have no choice than to constantly use your devices, taking regular breaks to stretch your muscles in different ways can help a great deal. Again, setting a timer or calendar reminder is a great way to do this — and is yet another good behavior to model for your students.
Whether at school or at home, we work on our devices an inordinate amount. Demonstrating good ergonomic habits to your students is an important thing to do to ensure they grow up with the healthiest habits possible.