Washington, March 7 : An Australian study suggests that schoolchildren can be prevented from musculoskeletal strain by positioning classroom-learning materials at a mid-level rather than a high-level or a low-level.
Published in Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, the study was conducted using computer screen displays.
The authors of the study say that children are physically as well as behaviourally different from adults, a fact that renders research conducted on adults inadequate to address computer-related discomfort in children.
Given that limited research has been carried out so far to determine what constitutes the optimal display height for children, Leon Straker and his colleagues undertook the instant study.
The researchers presented an interactive task to 24 children of normal height age 10-12. The children's movements were recorded with an optical capture system as they read from a book and wrote on paper, or read from a computer display and used a mouse and keyboard to enter data.
With a view to capturing all relevant details that are commonly observed in schools, the researchers measured 3-D posture of the children, and the muscle activity in their necks and upper limbs when a high-level, a mid-level, and a book-level displays were separately used.
Of the three positions, the mid-level display was found to promote a more upright and symmetrical posture and lower average muscle activity than the other two displays. The book-level display was found to cause the most strain on muscles and joints.
"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," the study's authors noted.
The researchers believe that their findings may lead to necessary guidelines for computer use by children.