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Thursday, 24 February, 2000, 15:43 GMT
Computer use could 'injure' children

graphic
Sitting incorrectly can damage your health


School children could fall prey to repetitive strain injury (RSI) caused by the misuse and overuse of computers, campaigners have warned.

The RSI Association is concerned that many pupils do not have the correct workstations and equipment to help prevent the condition.

And head teachers have backed their fears, urging the government to give schools better advice on how computers should be used safely in schools, and more money to implement it.

The government has said it wants every school connected to the internet by 2002.

mother and young boy using computer at home Many pupils now have computers at home
Last year, there was one computer for every 13 primary school pupils, and one for every nine in secondary schools.

But head teachers say that in many schools, investment in computers is running way ahead of provision of the adjustable desks, chairs and workstations needed for children to use them safely.

In the business world, growing awareness of the dangers - and potential cost - of RSI is prompting employers to take the quality and design of office furniture more seriously.

But campaigners say the issue is barely recognised in schools, where children risk serious damage by using computers while sitting at traditional desks.

They add that even greater numbers of children may be putting themselves at risk by the way they use computers at home.

Poor posture

Wendy Lawrence, chair of the RSI Association, said: "We are getting more and more calls from parents who are concerned by the way children are using computers and video games.

"In schools especially, low chairs that cannot be adjusted for height, plus tables that may also be too low, combine to produce poor posture and increased risk of developing RSI.

"We need to alert teachers, parents and children to this risk."

Chris Thatcher, president of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Awareness of this problem is growing rapidly. Heads need to consider much more than just the numbers of computers they have in their schools, but how the children are using them.

"No-one is really saying to schools; here are 20 computers, now you need 20 proper workstations for children to use them safely.

"The tendency has been to say 'Here are the computers, now get on with it'.

"I would say that most computers being used by children in the home and at school are not being used on proper workstations.

"This is an issue that must be grasped. It is up to the government to give schools advice on how children should use computers safely, and provide them with the resources to carry it out."

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See also:
23 Dec 99 |  Health
Computer games pose injury risk
02 Feb 00 |  Education
Gates wants laptop for every pupil
13 Jan 00 |  Bett2000
Online drive pushes ahead in schools
19 Dec 99 |  Education
Call to speed up pupils' net use
31 Jul 98 |  Health
Beware! Your keyboard can cripple you

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