Research Suggests Mid-Level Computer Screen Displays Can Minimize Musculoskeletal Strain in Schoolchildren

March 6, 2008

A new study by human factors researchers in Australia suggests that students’ posture is affected by the height at which they view classroom learning materials. The researchers cited computer screen displays positioned at mid-level as causing less musculoskeletal strain than high- and book-level displays. Their findings were published in the February 2008 issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society.

The rapid increase in computer use by children over the past few years, say the authors, "has outpaced the development of knowledge about the ramifications for the health of children." For example, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that in 2006, 80% of children aged 5 to 14 years used a computer at home.

Children are physically and behaviorally different from adults; for example, children’s heads are proportionately larger than those of adults. This makes research conducted on adults inadequate to address computer-related discomfort in children.

Because research on what constitutes the optimal display height for children is limited, Leon Straker and colleagues conducted a study in which they presented an interactive task to 24 children of normal height age 10–12. The children's movements were recorded with an optical capture system while they read from a book and wrote on paper or read from a computer display and used a mouse and keyboard to enter data. The researchers measured 3-D posture and muscle activity in the neck and upper limb for the high-, mid-, and book-level displays. The authors state that the study is unique in that it captures 3-D posture and muscle activity under conditions that are commonly observed in schools.

The high display resulted in mainly upward bending of the upper neck. As the visual target was lowered, head and neck downward bending increased. The mid-level display was found to promote a more upright and symmetrical posture and lower average muscle activity than either the high- or the book-level position. Of the three positions, the low (book-level) display was found to cause the most strain on muscles and joints.

Straker and colleagues note, "The data collected in this study provide the first detailed description of 3-D head, neck, and arm posture and the associated muscle activity of children reading and entering data with computers and reading and writing with paper." Despite some limitations of their study, they believe the findings can aid in the development of guidelines for computer use by children.

Source: National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia

Explore further: Camera-based technology tracks people in car interiors

Related Stories

Camera-based technology tracks people in car interiors

August 1, 2016

When it comes to parking assistance or detecting pedestrians, modern cars can analyze their environment with high precision. But so far, what's going on inside the car is less analyzed. Not so with a new type of system: it ...

Smartphones won't make your kids dumb. We think.

June 7, 2016

Like many parents, Sandy is concerned about how much time her 18-month-old spends in front of screens. Weighing up the available evidence, Olivia Solon explains that she might be worrying too much. Jessica's tiny fingers ...

Israel ultra-Orthodox women go hi-tech

July 11, 2016

Bright and airy, the workspace at Comax is much like other Israeli hi-tech firms, except that a rabbi has carefully vetted its design to allow ultra-Orthodox Jewish women to work there.

Recommended for you

How the finch changes its tune

August 3, 2015

Like top musicians, songbirds train from a young age to weed out errors and trim variability from their songs, ultimately becoming consistent and reliable performers. But as with human musicians, even the best are not machines. ...

Cow embryos reveal new type of chromosome chimera

May 27, 2016

I've often wondered what happens between the time an egg is fertilized and the time the ball of cells that it becomes nestles into the uterine lining. It's a period that we know very little about, a black box of developmental ...

Shaving time to test antidotes for nerve agents

February 29, 2016

Imagine you wanted to know how much energy it took to bike up a mountain, but couldn't finish the ride to the peak yourself. So, to get the total energy required, you and a team of friends strap energy meters to your bikes ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.