Researcher studying ergonomics for kids
April 21, 1997
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 GMT)
From Science Correspondent Ann Kellan
ITHACA, New York (CNN) -- Many kids take naturally to computers, and educators want to make sure they become computer literate to succeed in the 21st Century. But while those computers are stimulating young minds, what are they doing to young bodies?
That's what researcher Alan Hedge of Cornell University is trying to find out, with a research project looking at how all those hours in front of their computers might be stressing kids' hands, arms and shoulders.
For the past 10 years, Hedge has been studying how office design and office ergonomics lead to injuries. His new research on children and computers, then, is a natural extension.
"Now that we're beginning to computerize schools, and now that we're staring to introduce computers into the homes, and now that we're requiring students to do more work on computers, then we're beginning to see the potential for the same kinds of injuries occurring in a younger population," says Hedge.
Students given typing test, played game with mouse
Hedge's research team uses various high-tech devices to study what happens when a person types on a keyboard or maneuvers a mouse. Tests were performed at students at a middle school near Cornell.
Students were given a typing test, then played a game requiring a mouse. They were evaluated on how they sat and how they used their hands, wrists, arms and shoulders.
The results show that there is less stress when the keyboard and mouse are not sitting on top of the desk but are instead on a lower tilt-down platform.
"If you could imagine that you're doing your work on a computer, sitting back in your chair, literally working with the computer almost in your lap -- that's the kind of posture that we see causes the least amount of muscular effort and poses the least risk of injury," says Hedge.
Non-typists prefer desktop
Some of the students, however, preferred having the keyboard up on the desk, and a lot of them said it was because they still needed to look at the keys when they were typing. Researchers believe that once they become better typists, that problem should disappear.
Now the challenge is to find ways to adapt this research to construction of school furniture in order to make computing safer -- and to educate parents and teachers about the potential problems.
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