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Kids and Technology

Technology

The health and well being of our kids is of paramount concern to parents. In this day and age, they are presented with limitless opportunities and exposed to new and exciting technological advances daily. We all agree, technology is here to stay and it will continue to evolve and change rapidly. Have we however, thought about how technology impacts the health and well being of our children and is there anything we can do to minimise poor habits and balance screen time with healthier active pursuits?

According to a survey conducted between March and May 2017 by the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne:

  • The majority of all Australian children, across all age groups, are exceeding the current national recommended guidelines for screen time,
  • Almost all (94%) Australian teenagers, two thirds (67%) of primary school aged children and over a third (36%) of preschoolers have  their own mobile screen-based device.

It was reported the average hours of screen time per week across the ages were:

  • <2 years 14.2 hours
  • 2 to <6 years 25.9 hours
  • 6 to <13 years 31.5 hours, and
  • 13 to <18 years 43.6 hours

These statistics won’t be surprising to many parents, but they do have consequences for our children’s health and well-being.

  • The use of mobile screen-based devices encourage a forward neck posture and forward slouched position of the shoulders. In addition, most mobile device use occurs on the couch, bed or in other poor postural positions, which can lead to overuse injuries in the wrist, headaches, neck, shoulder and generalised back pain.
  • 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. Lengthened muscles fail to support correct posture.
  • They also tend to round their shoulders forward, which creates additional wear on the back and the upper part of the spine and overlaying musculature.
  • When children spend an extended amount of time in these positions, they can start to experience pain.
  • Exceeding recommended screen time use may also take away the opportunity for children to take part in physical activity; a major cause of childhood obesity and fitness decline.
  • Poor workstation setup for desktop use can result in headaches, neck, shoulder and upper back pain. If your child does sit at a desk to access a desktop computer or laptop, the desk and chair need to be adjusted specifically for the child:
  • The computer monitor needs to be between 45 – 70 cm away with the top of the monitor at eye level and slightly tilted backwards,
  • Arms should be relaxed, forearms parallel to the floor with minimal bend in the wrist,
  • The chair should have a backrest and be height adjustable so that the thighs and feet are parallel to the floor.

If you’ve recognised the need to improve your child’s posture when using technology, here are a few creative tips to consider:

  1. Get your kids to use their mobile devices lying on their back as their arms will complain much quicker than necks and backs. If they roll over or sit up, screen time is over.
  2. To encourage the use of technology in a standing posture, put a magnet/s on the back of their device and stick it to the fridge.
  3. For kids that have a bunk bed, strap the device under the top bunk so they can watch programs lying on their back.
  4. Get your child active while using technology! Get them to do squats or hold a lunge while they text friends. They can use their phone for as long as they hold the squats for!
  5. Let them have screen time whilst standing on a balance cushion or sitting on a balance ball, as it’s very difficult to have poor posture in these situations.
  6. Designate a desk in your home where device use occurs and have individual ergonomic setups for each child.
  7. If your child wants to use their device, firstly they must play outside for 30 minutes or perform some physical activity before they can use technology. Use this the same we used to have to complete our homework before being allowed to play outside, just in reverse!
  8. Similarly, give them an activity tracker and they can have their device only once they have achieved “x” number of steps for the day.
  9. Use a timer for screen time so that your child is only allowed a set amount of time before the device shuts down. To get more screen time, they have to go and do the equivalent amount of time in activity or outside play.

As technology continues to be an integral part of our children’s lives, use these tips to help lessen the negative impacts on posture and encourage a healthier relationship for our children and technology. Do you have any tips on maker technology use safer for our developing young people?

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Lena Juross

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