Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Video games are a pain in the neck -- and hands and wrists

Kids showing same injury problems as adults with video games ...

"Time becomes inconsequential the minute Ryan Marcelo turns on his computer. After logging on to one of his favourite game sites -- RuneScape, Ragnarok and MapleStory are his top three picks -- he starts clicking away, his eyes fixed on the animated characters on the screen.

"I play every day, sometimes for more than four hours straight," Ryan, a 14-year-old resident of Pickering, just outside Toronto, said. "When I'm finished playing, sometimes my eyes are heavy, sometimes I just feel really tired."

A familiar story? In households with children and computers, there's a good chance of meeting tech-savvy youngsters like Ryan, who, by their own admission, spend way too much time in front of their computers. And, like Ryan, these children are starting to feel aches and pains as a result of frequent and prolonged computer use.

Now that desktop PCs, laptops, cellphones and e-mail devices such as the BlackBerry have become as commonplace as ashtrays once were in offices and homes, more and more children are experiencing the same types of computer-related discomfort that adults have complained about in the past decade, Margo Fraser, executive director of the Calgary-based Association of Canadian Ergonomists, said.

"What we're seeing is children reporting levels of computer-related discomfort close to what adults are reporting," said Ms. Fraser, who also owns an ergonomics consulting business. "They're reporting that their eyes are bothering them, and that they're feeling pain or discomfort in their necks, backs and in their hands, arms and wrists."

Findings from the Young Canadians in a Wired World research project reveal how computing has become an everyday part of life for Canadian youngsters. Close to 40 per cent of children 4 to 11 have their own Internet-linked computer, and more than 20 per cent have a cellphone, on which they thumb instant messages to friends. And if Canadian children are anything like their American counterparts, they probably account for more than 30 per cent of video gamers in this country.

But does the growing use of technology among children translate into widespread incidences of computer-related health problems? Research in this area has been scarce, but the few studies that do exist suggest that such injuries are prevalent among children and teens. A study of 10- to 17-year-old Australians attending schools with mandatory laptop programs showed that about 60 per cent said they suffered discomfort, mostly in the neck and shoulder areas."    (Continued via globeandmail)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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