Advice for home schooling

As the Corona virus pandemic continues and schools remain closed, most pupils and teachers have now got to grips with remote learning. What the schools have been offering to their pupils is no less than amazing and I can most certainly vouch for the remote learning offer from my own children’s school. However, these longer hours in front of a computer may cause aches and pains and potentially lead to injuries over time.

Children (and adults alike) often do not understand the long-term ramifications of sitting for long periods of time, day after day with poor posture. Slouching, sitting with their feet off the ground, being hunched over and staring at a screen for hours without breaks can put strain on the neck, back and eyes. This strain manifests itself as discomfort, or pain, in the neck, shoulders, back, wrists or hands, as well as tension headaches.

Admittedly, not everyone has space in the home to set up a proper workstation. So here are some cost-friendly tips to help improve your child’s posture as much as possible.

Try to maintain a neutral posture while sitting at a table or desk, with the spine and neck straight and the lower back supported. Forearms and thighs should be roughly parallel to the floor, and feet should be flat and supported, not dangling. Arms should rest comfortably at the sides, with wrists straight and relaxed.

The work area should be well-lit with the monitor positioned at approximately arm’s-length and the top part of the screen at eye level. Whilst desktop computers are more easily adjustable, many children are using laptops and tablets, in which case placing a book or box underneath to raise it up to a suitable level will help. Children using laptops or tablets may also benefit from an external keyboard and mouse to keep their wrists straight.

An adjustable ergonomic chair can help a child achieve proper positioning at a desk or table, but they can be expensive. Try making a regular chair more comfortable by using cushions to raise the child up and rolling up towels for lower-back support. Use a footrest – a sturdy box will do.

To ease eye strain, try the 20-20-20 rule, which is that every 20 minutes you look more than 20 feet away from you and blink your eyes for at least 20 seconds.

Breaks are built into the normal school day, so do try to break up the day. Make sure children get up frequently to prevent stiffness and use a mid-morning break to do a bit of “counterstretching” (there are plenty of videos on YouTube) and go out for a walk at lunchtime.

Good child seating position

Philip Brooks