Encouraging Healthy Computing

Omaha World Herald Metro Morning 03/17/2011, Page E05

Encouraging healthy computing




For today’s students, life is all about staring at a screen.

They spend hours doing homework, playing games, chatting with friends, reading books and just hanging out — all on computers, smart phones and e-readers or tablets.

And doctors say they’re starting to pay the price: in eyestrain, neck pain and wrist aches.

“Kids have a limited degree of awareness, so they’ll just play and play until they’re exhausted,” said Dr. Patricia Smith of Triangle Eye Physicians in Raleigh, N.C. “You’ve got to parent up and limit the amount of computer time.”

That’s not always easy. The portable nature of most of those devices makes policing online time a challenge.

Apex, N.C. , mom Tiffany Edwards said she thinks her 14-year-old son Torin spends two to three hours a day on his electronic devices, which include a computer, an iPhone and the iPad he got for Christmas.

Ask Torin and he said it’s closer to five hours a day. He’s starting to have some neck pain, but the middle school student doesn’t think it is related to his iPad. His mom, however, is not so sure.

“I notice it through the day, him just wiggling his neck around trying to relieve some of the pain and things like that,” she said. “I don’t know what the solution is. It’s not like they’re not going to use the devices.”

But doctors say talking about online time and setting boundaries for kids is important because too much time staring at a screen can cause health problems.

Here are warning signs: • Squinting at the screen • Leaning in toward the screen • Rubbing eyes • Complaints of dry eyes • Complaints of headaches • Back or neck pain • Insomnia

Think about eye health:

Smith, the ophthalmologist in Raleigh, N.C., offered these tips:

Make sure your child is viewing the computer at his or her own height. A child sitting at an adult’s desk will be looking up at the screen. This exposes more eye surface, increases the rate of blinking and can lead to eye fatigue more quickly.

Take note if your child is complaining of dry or itchy eyes. Sometimes kids can develop “dry eye syndrome” from staring at a screen and not blinking enough.

Watch for excessive eye rubbing.

Kids who are heavy eye rubbers can actually damage their corneas.

Make sure that when your kids take break s, they are not simply moving to another screen-related activity, like watching TV. Encourage them to go outside, play a game or do something else that does not involve a monitor.

Watch your posture:

Sitting up straight can do a lot to prevent posture problems or pain in the back and neck, said Amy Howes, a physical therapist forWakeMed, who works at a clinic in the Kerr Family YMCA in Raleigh, N.C.

She offered these tips: Find a chair that supports your lower back. Your feet should be on the floor and should be in line with your knees. If your child’s feet do not reach the floor, use a footrest or other booster.

Use a desk. Do not use a computer or laptop sitting on the couch. “That sort of makes you want to slouch and bend over,” she said, “and that’s not always best.”

Keep your ears in line with your shoulders and your shoulders in line with your hips. In other words — sit up straight.

If you find that you have soreness or pain in your back or neck, try these three simple stretching exercises.

1. Sit up straight, put your arms at your sides and try to squeeze your shoulder blades together. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, relax and then repeat.

2. Tilt your ear toward your shoulder to stretch your neck, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, then look straight ahead and repeat for the other shoulder.

3. Bring your shoulders up toward your ears like you are shrugging, hold for a few seconds and then relax.

If you have any question or concerns about your child's vision. Call Us (308)872-2291!

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