Tips for a Healthy Desk Space
Human growth should be an inherently balanced process. Your body will adapt or grow along lines of stress. This means that if a person spends hours of their day in certain postures, their growth can become asymmetrical or unbalanced. In the short term, this requires more energy and increases fatigue. Long term effects of poor ‘ergonomics’ include poor posture and vision problems. Ergonomics is the science of designing a workplace to fit the user in order to prevent repetitive strain, fatigue and long term disability.
Your kids are just hitting the books again for the new school year, so let’s make sure your child’s work space is set up correctly at home. These tips will help to improve concentration and reduce fatigue and the chance of long term problems.
Problems – When a child is looking at work on a desk, they will move their body so their face is parallel with the desk. This means they hunch forward and place extra strain on their spine and neck. To help they will often then support their body on one elbow resulting in an unequal viewing angle to the page. This results in unequal use of their two eyes.
Solutions – remember the “old sloped desks”? Well, in fact the ideal surface for reading and writing is a 20 degree sloped surface. Sloped desks are sometimes available from some furniture stores, however this may not be adaptable to a computer. A simpler solution is to invest in a slope board for reading and writing. The advantage is your child can also keep one on their desk at school.
Problems – A child will turn or twist their body unknowingly to avoid shadows or glare. Glare and reflections can make it difficult to keep accurate focus on a task, and over time, this can cause postural problems.
Solutions – Reading and writing requires good lighting without shadows. Avoid a bright window to one side, which casts shadows. Use desk lamps and wall lights which spread the light evenly over the desk. Lighting for computer work should typically be less bright than for reading and writing.
Problems – To see a computer clearly, a child must focus their eyes and turn their eyes in to align on the screen. The eye muscles that turn in are designed to work best when your child is looking downwards (not straight ahead or up). However, most screens are set too high for a child, meaning they have to look up. This is an unnatural posture for the eyes, and can cause visual fatigue, eye strain, headaches and other potential long term vision problems. Glare and reflections on the screen should be avoided, as well as bright light behind the screen.
Solution – place the computer screen as low as possible on a desk where your child can face directly towards the screen (not off to one side). Ideally, the desk is positioned so your child can look up and over the top of the screen across the room (not at a wall) to have an “eye rest break”. This allows the eye muscles to straighten and focus into the distance. Avoid placing desks in front of windows, where the light is bright behind the screen. Use diffuse, soft lighting which reduces reflections on the screen.
The Link Between Posture and Vision
Good posture is important for good vision. Good vision allows for optimum concentration, attention and recall. Bad posture can be a sign of a vision problem (tilting head, moving close to page), just as a vision problem can cause bad posture! If you have any concerns about your child’s vision or posture when reading, seek advice from the Optometrists at Harmony Vision.