What are mobile and tech devices doing to your child’s back and neck?
When your child tilts their head forward because they’re bent over a phone or tablet, the angle of the head puts additional strain on the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck. They also tend to round their shoulders forward, which creates additional wear on the back and the upper part of the spine.
When children spend an extended amount of time in these positions, they can start to experience pain. Researchers have noted that doctors are seeing an increase in children coming in for treatments for back and neck pain as well as digestive pain and issues, and that increase seems to correlate with the increase in mobile device use. What’s more, poor posture tends to breed more poor posture. In other words, if your child is slouching or hunching over a device, they may also be doing it when they’re sitting in class or at the dinner table. Poor posture can quickly become a habit.
What Are The Long-Term Effects?
When children develop a bad posture habit, the effects can be long or life-lasting. Back and neck pain is only one aspect of the problem. Poor posture can also cause the spinal cord to change shape, which can create chronic pain and affect balance.
Poor posture also has an effect on the rest of the body. Sitting for extended periods of time with poor posture compresses the digestive organs, which has a negative effect on the digestive system. Bad posture is also associated with varicose veins and an elevated risk of heart disease.
What Can You Do As Parents?
Making some changes to the way your child uses their mobile devices can help decrease their risk of developing poor posture and the problems that go along with it. Avoid allowing them to use their tablet or phone on the bed or while laying on the couch. Instead, have them sit up straight. Invest in a holder for the device that allows your child to use it without hunching over. Be a good example and model the behaviors you want to see in your children.
Teach your kids to stop and stretch their arms above their heads regularly. Additionally, have them do some cervical stretching by simply lying on their back on their bed and having their head hang off the end of the bed for just 5-7 minutes a day. This can help them reset their posture.
Have a set amount of screen time their allowed each week. For example, if you allow them 3-4 hours of screen time to last over 7 days, they'll have to learn to break it up in small increments versus staying on their devices for hours each day.
Encourage your child to take frequent exercise breaks away from the digital devices as well. Breaking up device time with some exercise will help prevent slouching or hunching. Parental control apps can be ideal for this.
Parental control apps can help by allowing you to schedule alerts and implement time limits to remind your child to stretch or take a break from their device.
Make sure your children, whether they're elementary school age or young adults, see you practicing good posture and taking time to stretch. Lead by example and they will follow!