With Christmas just around the corner, chances are your children have at least one mobile device on their Christmas wish list. From the latest iPhone to tablets and handheld games consoles, it seems that children crave technological gadgets which let them socialise virtually with friends, listen to music and play the current games and apps. With children spending around 17 hours per week in front of a screen (Source: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/feature/digital-home/how-much-screen-time-is-healthy-for-children-benefits-3520917/), this far exceeds the 8.8 hours per week children spend playing outdoors. But what damage is this doing to their posture?
Staring at the screen of a phone or tablet inevitably means that the user is usually sat in a slumped position with the head leaning forward. The weight of a human head is approximately 10lbs, with a child’s head weighing slightly less than this. This puts incredible strain on a child’s neck and shoulder muscles, which are not as well developed as an adults. Sitting in this position for long periods of time (as children are often inclined to do if they are given opportunity) can put huge strain on the neck and muscle fatigue can set in, causing a real pain in the neck.
Disc and Joint Damage
Prolonged periods of muscle fatigue can cause problems in the development of the disc and joints in the spine and shoulders, which can not only cause pain in the short term future, but can also cause long term damage. Reports of adults in their early thirties developing arthritic symptoms are becoming more common, this is worrying news as traditionally the condition would not become apparent until the individual is around sixty or seventy years old.
Limited Screen Time
Whilst most parents would be reluctant to totally ban their offspring from using handheld mobile devices for fear of a backlash, it is sensible to reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen. Try to encourage your child to get up and walk around every 20 minutes or so in order to gradually increase their activity. Put a time limit on how much screen time they have per day – perhaps break this up into a portion of time before school, a session once they come home from school and 20-30 minutes after eating their evening meal.
Children who are already experiencing back or neck pain related to excessively using a mobile device may benefit from osteopathy. An osteopath could advise on some specific stretching exercises to routinely carry out to help to strengthen the back and neck muscles so as to reduce the pain, but ultimately controlling how much screen time our youngsters have could help to prevent the next generation from developing arthritis symptoms before they reach middle age.
Osteopaths have undergone years of training in order to learn how to analyse posture and alignment in both children and adults. Osteopathic treatment can be use to help mobilise specific areas of stiffness which can develop from sitting in prolonged postures and can assist with ensuring that children develop correct muscle balance in their bodies. The combination of osteopathic treatment and stretching exercises can help to realign the body to its optimum position.
If your children have handheld mobile devices on their list for Father Christmas, just be mindful of how much time they spend on their new gadgets and try to encourage them to get up and move around as frequently as possible. If you or your children experience pain as a result of spending too much time on a mobile device, call our practice today on 0121 705 4499 to make an appointment with one of our osteopaths.