Ever find your child hunched over a tablet or slouched on the floor watching TV?
Poor posture is a common cause of back pain and soreness for children. In a study of back pain in 648 children and adolescents, 50% of children reporting back pain were found to have non-specific musculoskeletal pain – which refers to overuse and improper use of muscles.
Dr Jeffrey Tucker has certainly noticed the toll too much screen-time has had “Over my 30 years in practice I am seeing more back pain, neck aches, neck-shoulder pain and headache in the adolescent population related to prolonged sitting and excess amounts of screen time have also been associated with obesity in young people”
Children are especially at risk in the Winter when they are less active and more likely to turn to screens! Looking down to use smart phones, tablets and laptops for a long period of time can pull the back and neck into an unnatural posture. Static sitting watching TV makes them bring their head forward in a really slouched position. This is very poor for the spine and back muscles and causes stiffness and reduced joint lubrication.
Here are tips parents can use to encourage proper posture for children:
- Use a timer to encourage breaks from sitting
Losing track of time is a major issue for children, small breaks are critical. Using a timer can help. It doesn’t mean they have to stop playing, but just remind them to walk around or stand up every 20 or 30 mins.
- Avoid sitting on unsupported surfaces
Discourage them to spend long amounts of screen time on low-supported couches, chairs or the floor where they can end up straining themselves.
- Have the screen and chair properly adjusted for computer time
Set up this area so kids are seated to allow eye level or slightly below eye level viewing of the screen. Also, adjust the chair so the height allows for both feet to be firmly planted on the floor.
- Talk about the importance of posture
Making children take breaks from TV and video games may not be easy, but it’s important. Helping kids become self-aware about their posture can create good lifetime habits.
- Consider a therapy ball
Children can work their muscles whilst on a screen. Therapy balls offer a dynamic surface that makes children work their trunk muscles (pectoralis, obliques and abdominis) while they are playing video games. This helps promote proper posture.