A Guide to Safer Mobile Device Use

This guide gives information about safe laptop use.

User holding a phone

Common Problems

With more and more people owning smart devices and spending greater amounts of time texting, tweeting, emailing, using social media sites (such as Facebook), e-reading and surfing the net, physiotherapists are seeing a significant increase in mobile phone and hand-held device related injurie This causes:

  • Back and neck strain
  • Eye strain
  • Wrist and hand problems, from using the keyboard at an awkward angle, or with bent wrists.

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Neck postureNeck posture by weight

The main points to consider when using a laptop computer are:

  • lternate between using your thumbs and other fingers to type.
  • Keep your wrists relaxed and as straight as possible.
  • Minimise the strain on your wrists, fingers and thumbs by using a neutral grip when holding your device. A neutral grip is achieved when the wrist is relatively straight (or bent backwards slightly i.e. up to 30 degrees) and not bent in any other direction. If you keep your wrists bent excessively whilst using a mobile device your fingers and/or thumbs have to work a lot harder than with a neutral grip.
  • Maintain an upright spinal posture when texting (see Posture). Avoid looking down as this bends the neck and tends to round the shoulders. This can ultimately lead to neck, shoulder or upper back pain. Avoid holding the phone in your lap or below chest height.
  • Try to maintain the phone at your chest, chin or eye level to minimize the bend in your neck and to maintain optimal posture. If your phone is below eye level, look down with your eyes rather than your neck. Avoid using the phone to one side of the body with the neck rotated
  • Take regular breaks - change your position, walk around (if you can), and rest your eyes.
  • Use a stand for any reading material, so that it is in line with the laptop monitor.
  • Don't support the laptop on your lap, because it gets too hot.

Carrying a laptop around, particularly a heavy one, can also be problematic. The best solution is to have a very lightweight laptop, in a good quality rucksack-type bag. Some people suggest that a non-branded bag is better, because it disguises the fact that you have a laptop from potential thieves. If possible, leave the laptop in a safe place when not in use, so that you are not constantly carrying its weight.

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Environmental factors

The key aspects of the environment to consider when using a laptop are the amount of light and glare, noise, heat and position of furniture.


If possible, avoid sitting with direct light on the screen (sunlight or artificial light), as this causes glare. Also, avoid having a strong light source directly behind the screen, as this creates a "halo effect", making the screen harder to see.
Adjust the angle of the screen so that it is as easy to read as possible.
Adjust the illumination (brightness) of the screen to suit the lighting of the room. A rule of thumb is to have it as low as possible, but so that it is easy to read. A screen that is too bright causes more eye fatigue - and uses the battery more!


As with any work that requires concentration, as little background noise as possible is best. If using headphones or earphones and listening to the laptop, make sure that the volume is not too high, as listening through earphones to high volumes has been found to be linked to high-frequency hearing loss. Also be aware that some laptops create high pitch noise, but this should be within healthy limits.

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Work Organisation, Information and Operation

It is generally recommended that people don't use laptops for long periods of time, so wherever possible, organise your work with this in mind. Always ensure that you take breaks, as described in the posture and movement section above.

If possible, take courses in how best to use the programmes that you use most frequently. IT Services provides a variety of courses on the common programmes used in College.

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