A majority of children are now using desk computers, hand-held electronics such as smart phones and PDAs, and gaming controls on a daily basis. Parents should take an active part in teaching their children techniques that will help them prevent future injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis.
The American Society of Hand Therapists (ASHT) stresses the importance of developing good habits early on in children to prevent hand and wrist injuries in adulthood. Healthy techniques learned at a young age can carry over into other aspects of life where there is a similar injury risk such as sitting in front of a computer or playing musical instruments. The ASHT Media News Bureau provided the following overall tips and health guidelines for kids and video gamers of all ages:
Prevent Future Injuries such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and Tendonitis
- Tell your child to use a neutral grip when holding the controller. A neutral grip is when the wrist is straight, not bent in either direction (not strong or weak). It will allow for wrist motion in a plane where more motion is available in the wrist.
- Ask your child to take a break every hour or switch to another activity. Overuse of repetitive motions, such as pressing buttons, can cause tendonitis of the elbow or lead to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
- Don�t let your child sit back on his/her knees. Bending the knees this far is not only a hard position for the knee joint, but it requires your child to push most of his/her body weight up with his/her hands and wrists, placing increased pressure on these joints as well.
- Make sure the monitor is at the correct height. While looking at the horizon, your child�s eyes should be looking at the top of the monitor.(this may vary if child wears glasses)
- If your child is typing, the keyboard should be at a height so that with his/her wrist/hands are straight, his/her forearms are parallel to the keyboard surface.
- When using a GameBoy (or other hand held gaming devices), encourage your child to put pillows in their laps and rest arms on pillows. This will allow them to keep their head in a more upright position and therefore decrease neck strain. The pillows will help support the arms so they do not have to be held up in the air.
- Whenever, possible your child should be sitting in an appropriate chair. This would be a chair that allows your child to comfortably put their feet on the floor and also provides good back support.
- When s/he is using a single control device (like a mouse), encourage your child to switch hands frequently. This will allow the one hand to rest and reduce fatigue.
- Have your child frequently focus on a distant object (away from the monitor) to help reduce eye fatigue.
Marji Hajic is an Occupational Therapist and a Certified Hand Therapist practicing at the Hand Therapy & Occupational Fitness Center in Santa Barbara, California. For more information on hand and upper extremity injuries, prevention and recovery, visit Hand Health Resources.