BY NATALIE BENJAMIN-DAMONS (PHYSIOTHERAPIST)
With the increased use of devices, in both play and learning platforms, we see children spending most of their day hunched over their phones, tablets or laptops. If we consider, how many times we were told as children to sit properly, as parents we must see the negative effects on extended screen time on our children’s posture.
Our bodies are designed for us to be in an upright position. If we consider sitting in front of a screen, children tend to slouch and bend their heads, spine and shoulders in a forward position. After an extended period there is increased strain of the neck. This can result in a condition called ‘text neck’, which occurs after repeated stress related to excessive watching or texting on hand held devices. A more serious form of this condition can result in inflammation of the neck ligaments, nerve irritation and increased curvature of the spine.
So here are some tips for you to keep in mind when your child is at their favourite activity….the SCREEN
- Avoid prolonged periods of time on the device.
- For younger children, here are recommendations from the Canadian Pediatric society:
- Screen time
- For children younger than 2 years is not recommended.
- For children 2 to 5 years, limit routine or regular screen time to less than 1 hour per day.
- Ensure that sedentary screen time is not a routine part of child care for children younger than 5 years.
- Maintain daily ‘screen-free’ times, especially for family meals and book-sharing.
- Avoid screens for at least 1 hour before bedtime, given the potential for melatonin-suppressing effects.
- Have kids take breaks after every 20-30 minutes.
- Use this time to let them stretch, run around or play outside
- Try to use device stands where possible
- When they are on a screen like a laptop or tablet
- Place the device in front of them.
- Raise their device. Viewing distance approximately 40cm from the eye and on level with the eyes.
- Make sure they sit back in their seat and use the back rest for support
- Their forearms should rest on the arms of the chair while typing or placed on the table.
- The keyboard should be close to avoid reaching forward.
- Feet should be placed on the ground and not hanging
Children should spend at least an hour on vigorous physical activity daily. Where possible have do them ‘normal’ tasks in a more physical manner. Like ‘duckwalking’ to bedroom or building a puzzle in a plank position.
Our children are insightful and intelligent, so remember to educate them about posture and physical activity and very soon they will be reminding you about your posture!
Physiopedia, n.d., Text Neck, viewed 21 September 2020, <https://www.physio-pedia.com/Text_Neck#cite_note-:0-1>