Clean it up!

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

Q. Our computer keyboard is filthy. How can I keep it from being a breeding ground for germs?

A. When a whole family is using the same computer, it's bound to get dirty. In fact, a study by the University of Arizona found that keyboards contained more germs per inch than toilet seats.

Spreading germs within a family can be concerning, especially during flu and allergy seasons when noses are runny and coughs can spray your family workstation with germs.

While some new tech gadgets feature washable materials and germ-resistant surfaces, families can minimize their exposure to viruses and flu bugs by following a few simple steps.

Wash before you work. Start teaching kids at an early age to wash their hands before they use keyboards. Make it convenient by keeping hand sanitizer or wipes near the computer.

Limit food and drink. Eating and drinking near the computer can cause crumbs to fall on your keyboard and usually means that kids are touching their mouths with their hands - maybe even licking their fingers. Keep snacking away from the computer.

Post the rules. Create a short, simple reminder list to help cue kids when they sit down and start to type. Remind them to clean their hands before they get started.

Keep tissues at hand. Place a box of tissues and a trash can near the computer, especially when you have children who are sick. Remind kids to turn their heads away from their work area when they feel a sneeze or cough coming on.

Wipe it down. Take the time on a weekly basis to wipe the computer keys clean with an anti-bacterial wipe.

Take it beyond the keys. Your keyboard is not the only place where germs and dirt collect. Make a point to wipe down your computer mouse, video game controllers, TV remote controls and your home phone, too. While cell phones and handheld video games tend to be personal gadgets, many tweens and teens share their phones and games with others. Remind kids to keep their hands clean and be aware of the germs that may pass when friends use their tech gadgets.

Q: Can you suggest any online resources that will help our family combat summer boredom?

A. Once the novelty of summer's lazy days wears off, you might find yourself feeling pressured to come up with activities and ideas to keep kids occupied. Try using these online boredom busters to break up your summer routine and find ways for kids to make the most out of their time away from school.

Dull days? Online daily activity calendars suggest a new idea for a craft or activity to try each day during the summer. Kid Source Online ( offers a new family tip and activity each day and BlackDog ( provides a "summer daily" with activities like making a puppet theater, masking tape maze or learning sign language. Enchanted Learning ( uses its activity calendar to connect daily activities with trivia and history. For example, a link on Bastille Day, July 14, takes users to a quiz and a French flag print out.

Bored with books? If you're looking for good reading material for kids to get lost in this summer, you can find it on several great book lists for kids. Oprah's Book Club ( offers a great kids' reading list, broken into five age categories. You can find other great book lists at

Mundane meals? Bust out of your regular summer meal lineup by trying a recipe generator - an online tool that will help you use up the ingredients and leftovers in the fridge. lets you enter one ingredient you have available to search for recipes. The Make It Now tools at allows you to enter three ingredients you have and choose from breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes.

Isolated indoors? When weather dampens summer plans, kids can find great rainy day activity ideas with the help of the Department of Natural Resources at EEK! - Environmental Education for Kids online magazine. ( also provides great ideas for simple crafts and lets families search for projects by theme, type of craft or art product.

Sharon Miller Cindrich is the mother of two, a columnist and the author of E-Parenting: Keeping Up With Your Tech-Savvy Kids (Random House, 2007). Learn more at, or send questions to Sharon@

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