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The association between children's computer use and musculoskeletal discomfort


As American children spend more time working at computers, they may be putting themselves at risk for musculoskeletal disorders and other conditions that can result from overuse. There is little research that describes the home computer use of American middle school children or that describes the prevalence of musculoskeletal discomfort in this population.

This study provides a general description of the computer set-up and home use of 152 6th grade children and looks at the association between overall musculoskeletal discomfort and various ergonomic variables.

{\it Method:} 152 6th grade children completed the Musculoskeletal Discomfort Questionnaire and a survey of home computer use.

{\it Results:} More than half of the children reported some musculoskeletal discomfort within the last year. This pain could be made worse by computer use. Students reported that they had three computers in their house, and that they generally did not have furniture specifically designed for computer use. There was a significant association between the number of hours on the computer and overall musculoskeletal discomfort (r = 0.19, p = 0.05). The odds ratios between having furniture designed for the computer and touch typing and musculoskeletal discomfort were borderline significant, but suggested that students without proper furniture were more likely to have musculoskeletal discomfort (OR = 1.89, 95% and that those who could touch type were less likely to have musculoskeletal discomfort (OR = 0.54, 95%, 95% CI = 0.26--1.10), OR).

{\it Conclusion:} American children are reporting moderate amounts of musculoskeletal discomfort and this discomfort can be associated with computer use. Risk factors associated with computer use and discomforts are similar to those reported in the adult literature. Further study is necessary to understand the similarities and differences between adult and children computer use and how to protect both from developing musculoskeletal discomfort.