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How smart phone use affects your child’s health and posture

Two girls sitting on a couch using their smart phones and tabletsAustralians are increasingly experiencing back and neck pain due to prolonged use of mobile devices and computers.

Australians send more than 20 billion texts every year and spend more time in front of a screen than they do asleep. Shockingly, the average number of screen‐time hours has crept up to 9 per day and is affecting posture, comfort and quality of life.

Sitting at a desktop computer all day can cause significant postural problems. But a bigger concern is the use of mobile devices such as tablets, smartphones and eReaders because there is no established postural norm for these devices.

A recent study found that 70% of adults and 30% children and adolescents in Hong Kong reported musculoskeletal pain in relation to their use of electronic devices. These figures reflect a similar trend in Australia where more than 11.2 million use smartphones.

Device related back pain is a growing trend worldwide. A UK survey found that 84% of 18 to 24-year-olds suffer back pain in the last 12 months. 67% of these admitted to slouching or hunching in front of their PC or mobile device. The direct cost of back and neck pain to Australians is over $1 billion each year. Indirectly, this pain costs $8 billion as a consequence of lost productivity and disability.

Moreover, a Victoria University study has revealed catching and throwing skills have dropped significantly and there are fears it could impact on Australia’s mantle as world sport’s over-achievers. According to Professor Damien Farrow, the Victoria University study surveyed 400 primary aged children and found a range of alarming results. Only about 20 per cent of the population is reaching levels we would say are acceptable levels of motor-skills. Tech-devices like tablets and console games are encouraging children to stay indoors, forcing parents into difficult decisions around recreation time and balance.

Mobile device use results in many Australians spending hours hunched over a small screen or slumped on a couch or bed, causing muscular tightness and joint restriction of their upper back, neck and shoulders. Extended periods looking down or slouching often result in conditions like headaches, shoulder impingement and neck pain.

Hunching the shoulders is even more problematic in children and teenagers as their spine is still developing. Poor posture caused by prolonged device use may cause permanent postural problems leading to potential complications later in life. Obviously the more you use your devices, the more likely you are to have these symptoms.

Tips on preventing back and neck pain while using smart phones and tablets:

  • Make sure you and your child take frequent breaks when using a mobile device or desktop computer. Frequent short breaks away from the desk and computer will help avoid back, neck and eye strain.
  • Every 20 minutes encourage to stand up, stretch your arms, roll your shoulders and generally move your body. This will help relieve tension and get your blood flowing.
  • Keep well hydrated.
  • Include sufficient protein in your family menu to help repair tissue.
  • Ensure you and your child have a supportive mattress.
  • Make sure your children do not carry a heavy school bag on one shoulder.
  • Encourage your child to sit and stand with good posture.
  • Use ergonomic furniture such as chairs with lumbar support.
  • Make sure your child gets enough sunlight. The sun is vital for our Vitamin D production, which is vital for healthy bones. Just 10 minutes a day of face and arms uncovered whilst outside is enough to meet our quota.

– supplied by Osteopathy Australia

Image credit: sjhuls/123RF Stock Photo

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