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Overview
Kids have special needs when it comes to computers, from a smaller mouse for smaller hands to footrests that support the dangling feet of children in adult-sized chairs. Keeping your kids safe means tailoring the workstation to their pint-sized frames using good products, the right setup, and healthy usage habits. Read on for a quick list of tips and suggestions on keeping your kids comfortable.

The typical office chair isn't designed for users under 5 feet tall, so you may notice that your child doesn't seem to fill the seat out the way an adult would. Most experts agree that kids can sit for about an hour in adult-sized chairs without any discomfort. For longer periods of sitting, it's recommended that you make the chair better fit your child.

If the chair is adjustable, try lowering the arm rests, raising the seat pan, and pushing the lumbar support forward. If your chair doesn't have these adjustments, you can place a pillow under your child's bottom and behind his/her lower back. If your child's feet dangle in this position, put a footrest (or box) under his or her feet for support. Sitting perfectly upright isn't recommended; let your child relax and keep slightly open angles while receiving proper support from the modifications you've made.


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Since kids often sit in adult chairs, they tend to look up at the monitor, tilting their head back in a position that can cause neck pain. Your child's eyes should be level with or just slightly above the top of the monitor, about 24 inches away. (Make sure that you don't raise her chair so high that her feet are unsupported). Their monitor should be directly in front of them, and not off to the side.

If your child frequently works from papers or a textbook, consider using a document holder. These allow you to support books and papers closer to the monitor, and at a more ergonomic angle. Positioning documents close to the screen will minimize the amount your child has to turn or twist his head while working. Childhood is also the time when most eye conditions (such as nearsightedness) tend to develop, so if you find your child leaning in to see the monitor, be sure to have their eyes checked. Finally, consider using a good quality, glass anti-glare screen, which can help your child avoid squinting and eye strain.


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If you and your child are both using the same computer workstation, you'll want to make sure that it has an adjustable keyboard tray; this helps the workstation adjust comfortably to either size. Proper posture is also extremely important; help kids learn what's known as "neutral" posture. Their arms should lay close to their body (not outstretched or reaching to the side), their elbows should be at a 90 deg. or greater angle (this is known as an "open angle"), and their wrists should be neutral (i.e. with their wrist at about the same level as their forearm). In general, kids aren't as attuned to the position of their bodies, so it's particularly important to watch your child's posture and habits, reminding him when necessary.

Kids have small hands, but most end up using their parents' keyboards. This can be uncomfortable at best, and dangerous at worst. A few companies make smaller "kid-sized" keyboards that may be helpful for younger children (these keyboards have smaller keys and shorter distances between the keys). Many companies also make miniature mice for small hands. Children may find a trackball easier to negotiate, so you may want to try both.


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Make sure to regulate your child's time on the computer and encourage breaks. These frequent rests can be helpful in reducing the likelihood of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Computer Vision Syndrome, and other conditions. However, since adults are better than children at remembering when to stop, you'll need to watch a little more closely - or use monitoring software that pops up the occasional "break reminder".


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