As computers have become a staple in American homes, the rate of injuries from computer mishaps has grown as well — particularly among young children, according to a study published Tuesday.
Between 1994 and 2006, researchers found, there was a more than seven- fold increase in the number of Americans who visited an emergency room for a computer-related injury — lacerations, abrasions and bruises being the most common.
Up to now, studies have focused on chronic injuries associated with computer use such as back pain, blurred vision and eczema of the fingers from mouse use. However, accidents involving home computers have also increased.
Of all age groups, children younger than 5 had the highest injury rate, with many being hurt when they tripped over computer wires.
Regardless of the victim's age, home computers were most often to blame, rather than school or work computers, according to findings published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
More than 90 percent of injuries happened at home — which is notable, the researchers say, considering how common computers are in schools and the workplace.
That also means that families should take steps to protect themselves, according to Dr. Lara B. McKenzie of Nationwide Children's Hospital Center for Injury Research and Policy in Columbus, Ohio.
She suggests that parents keep all computer equipment on a stable piece of furniture, away from the edges of the surface and out of the reach of young children. They should also keep children's play areas separated from the computer workstation, McKenzie told Reuters Health, and only allow younger children to use the computer with adult supervision.
Keeping the computer workstation out of walkways and against a wall can minimize the risk of people hitting the sharp edges of the equipment or knocking any computer parts off of the desk.
Families should also make sure the computer wires and cords are organized and secured, McKenzie said. She and her colleagues found that about 43 percent of injuries to children younger than 5 happened when the child tripped over computer wires — as did 38 percent of injuries to adults age 60 or older.
Across age groups, 37 percent of injuries were the result of a person "hitting or getting caught" on a computer part, while 21 percent of injury victims were hurt by falling computer equipment.
The findings are based on a government database of ER-treated injuries at roughly 100 U.S. hospitals. Between 1994 and 2006, an estimated
78,703 Americans were treated for a computer-related injury — growing from 1,267 in 1994 to 9,279 in 2006.
The increase in injuries actually outpaced the growth of home computer ownership during that period, McKenzie and her colleagues note. While home ownership grew by 309 percent, the injury rate rose by 732 percent.