iPad

  1. Your iPad is a pain in the neck

    It's the very definition of a "First World Problem" -- how to hold your iPad without getting a crick in your neck.

    But it's enough of a problem these days to catch the attention of researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health, who say most people hold their iPads -- and other tablets -- in ways that are almost guaranteed to cause neck pain.

    In tests on an iPad and a rival machine, the Motorola Xoom, the researchers found four basic positions: on the lap with a case, on the lap without a case, propped up on the desk slightly, and propped up all the way -- almost like a computer monitor.

    It's that last one they say is best for you... but that kinda defeats the purpose of a tablet, doesn't it? If you have to prop it on a desk, it's really just a computer with a smaller screen.

    So you can bet most people will keep their tablets in their laps -- and a quick Google search turns up plenty of complaints over what's been dubbed "iPad Neck."

    You can add that to the growing list of pains caused by high-tech gadgets.

    People get back pain from lugging around laptops, carpal tunnel from typing on them all day, BlackBerry thumb (or iPhone thumb) from the overuse of smartphones and who knows what's coming next -- Siri throat, perhaps, from the overuse of voice-activated features on their iPhones.

    None of this -- not the technology or the pain -- is going away anytime soon. But that doesn't mean you have to give up your tech to avoid the pain, either.

    Just be smart about your smartphones, tablets and computers and how you use them. Go online and get some ergonomic pointers for your device -- and don't forget to get up every now and then, move around and stretch your neck, wrists and fingers.

    And if you're going to fire up the Netflix app or watch some YouTube cat videos on your iPad, take the Harvard advice and prop it up on your desk.

    Your neck will thank you.

  2. Doctor, my eyes

    The risks of smartphones go far beyond thumbs, wrists and sanity: A new study finds that the devices might be doing a
    number on your eyes, too.

    iPhones, BlackBerries and Androids help millions to work, keep in touch and stay entertained all day and night -- but they're also responsible for some pretty bad habits.

    And it starts with how we hold them.

    Researchers asked 130 volunteers with an average age of 23 to read text messages on their smartphones, then measured
    the distance between their eyes and the screen.

    And as it turns out, the volunteers almost all held their phones much closer than they would a newspaper, book or magazine.

    The researchers say the text readers held the phone about 14 inches away, with some holding it as close as 7 inches --
    compared to an average of 16 inches for normal printed materials.

    In a similar experiment, 100 participants with an average age of nearly 25 were asked to read a Web page on their smartphones -- and researchers say they held the phone just 12.6 inches away.

    So do those extra inches make a difference? You bet they do -- the researchers say it could place an extra strain on the
    eyes, especially for people who already wear glasses and contact lenses.

    They even suggest that optometrists consider testing vision at closer ranges for some patients and alter prescriptions
    based on mobile viewing habits.

    Since Web-based text tends to be smaller than newspaper print -- in some cases up to 70 percent smaller -- the most
    immediate action you can take right now is to go into your phone's settings and adjust the font size.

    Another option is to switch to a larger device for more serious reading -- including the Kindle and tablet computers like the iPad. In addition to larger screens, these devices contain even more settings to allow you to adjust text size as well as brightness.

    Finally, keep in mind that it's OK to put these devices down and even turn them off every now and then.

    Sometimes, the eyes just need a rest no matter what you're looking at.

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