Ninety-two percent of Australian children aged 5-14 years use information and communication technologies including computers, iPads and Smart phones, with increased use correlated with higher age. 87% of boys and 80% of girls regularly participate in electronic screen-based activities.
As a result of this increased usage, Chiropractors are treating more young patients suffering from unhealthy tech behaviours, which can include frequent and long durations of exposure; awkward postures due to inappropriate furniture or computer workstation layout, and ignoring tech-related discomfort. Many children are already suffering from repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and chronic pain in the hands, back, neck and shoulders.
Emphasis needs to be placed on teaching children how to properly use hand held devices, laptops and PC’s. Poor work habits and computer workstations that don’t fit a child’s body during the developing years can have harmful physical effects that can last a lifetime. Parents need to be just as concerned about their children’s posturing during the use of these devices as they are with any activities that may affect their children’s long-term health. To reduce the possibility of your child suffering painful and possibly disabling injuries, Chiropractors suggest the following tips:
- If children and adults in your home share the same computer workstation make certain that the workstation can be modified for each child’s use.
- Position the computer monitor so the top of the screen is at or below the child’s eye level. This can be accomplished by taking the computer off its base or stand, or having the child sit on firm pillows or phone books to reach the desired height.
- Make sure the chair at the workstation fits the child correctly. An ergonomic back cushion, pillow or a rolled- up towel can be placed in the small of the child’s back for added back support. The chair should have arm supports so that elbows are resting within a 70 to 135 degree angle to the computer keyboard.
- The child’s knees should be positioned at an approximate 90 to 120 degree angle. To accomplish this angle, feet can be placed on a foot rest, box, stool or similar object.
- Limit your child’s time at the computer or using hand held devices and make sure he or she takes periodic stretch breaks during this time.
- Encourage better positioning for extensive use of iPads or smarts phones (watching movies, shows) such as having you kids lay on their stomach to reduce the risk of forward head posture or more commonly known as “text neck”.
- Urge your child’s school to provide education on correct tech ergonomics and to install ergonomically correct workstations if using computers or iPads.
Additionally, postural abnormalities in adolescent years have been recognised as one of the sources of pain syndromes and early arthritis in adulthood. Therefore, posture should be checked and corrected in children before more serious problems can occur.