Ask Abby

First Time Visitors

Safety Tips For The Computer

Time for a pop quiz. What is the most important thing to have beside you when using the computer?

Ah, how kind of you to say my book. Good answer, but not what I was looking for. The correct answer is…a kitchen timer. It is suggested by the National Institute of Health that you take at least one 15-minute break for every hour that you’re at the computer. My suggestion is that you set the kitchen timer for 45 minutes. When it rings get a cup of coffee, make a phone call or do an errand, anything that gets you up and out of your chair and allows your eyes to relax for at least 10 minutes.

You don’t need to turn off your computer during the break. However, depending on which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you use, you may get disconnected from the Internet. Simply sign back on when you return after your break.

Here are some guidelines to follow for your good health at the computer:

  1. Your knees, hips and elbows should be at 90-degree angles.
  2. There should be an unbroken line from your elbows to your fingertips – no bending at the wrists.
  3. Your hand should be relaxed when using the keyboard and mouse – not claw-like.
  4. Be very aware of your posture – it is easy to "sink into" the machine over time.
  5. The monitor should be an arm’s length away. This may require a special prescription if you wear glasses.

For your computer’s health and well-being keep the computer away from:

  1. Extreme heat or cold
  2. Liquids of any kind
  3. Dirt, dust and animal hair
  4. Magnets
  5. High-pile carpeting

It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re in front of a computer. Before you know it, you’ve been staring at the screen for two solid hours without ever moving your body from its slumped position. Take a break! And be sure to pass this information on to your kids and grandkids. The earlier they develop good computer habits the healthier they’ll be.

(For more detailed ergonomic information visit Chapter 5 in Is This Thing On?.)