Parent to Parent

Watching Out for the Slump

boy using laptop with poor posture

Did your children get their own computer for Christmas this year? What a great gift! Education and entertainment all in one! And how about a laptop? Seems like all the kids have them now, doesn't it?

And they are all starting to look like little adults, toting their laptops to school. Hunched over them at every spare opportunity. Note the key words there: hunched over.

Ah yes, the gift that keeps on giving bad posture for life. Now, as an adult, I can be responsible for my own posture, good or bad. I can take precautions so that my desk area is set up for optimal ergonomics. And as parents, you too can make certain your child's computing areas are also set up for good posture. You can even make them comfortable at their laptop while in bed (isn't that where your teens want to spent their free time anyway?).

But what about when they take their gear on the run? That is the whole point of getting a laptop, isn't it, so that it's portable enough to go anywhere? Or maybe they need to tote it to school and back for a class. Whatever the reason, it's certain that your children will be using it somewhere other than the proper desk and chair arrangement.

While we call them laptops, these small portable computers are not ideal for sitting on your lap. In order to see the screen properly, it must be at or near eye level, not navel level. Add to that the heat generated by blocking the vents, and you have one uncomfortable student. There are portable fold-away desks available, with telescoping legs so that they are adjustable to the height of your chair. Some of them are even light enough and small enough to put into the same travel case as your computer.

For some, a simple lap desk will do, but not the cheapest version. That won't elevate the computer to a proper viewing level. You'll need one with extra deep padding for that, and they're more comfortable, too.

But the most effective defense against bad posture is the old-fashioned method: nagging. Place pictures of slumping teenagers in various locations where your own teen will see them. Lots of them! Email them regularly, with proper ergonomic practices. Even take pictures of them at work on their laptops, then compare them with similar pictures illustrating proper postures.

There are plenty of ways to nag without it seeming like nagging. Remind them often what they're going to look like if they don't follow your advice, but be sure to soften the message with humor, at least some of the time. And don't forget to compare them with some pictures of adults with the tell-tale dowager's hump. If you can, photoshop your children's faces onto those pictures. Just get creative, add in plenty of humor with your serious advice. But stick with it, so they won't be early candidates for back surgery.

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Patti Hermes is a writer and columnist, specializing in family and parenting subjects and works for children, as well as essays and a blog, Writes For Chocolate. She works at home where she referees two spirited little boys and occasionally their father. Originally from Massachusetts, she and her husband of eighteen years are now raising their happy family in the Midwest. To read more visit her on the web at

All websites and products mentioned in the Parent To Parent Columns are from Patti's independent research.

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