According to recent studies, the way kids use iPads, tablets & phones has the potential to harm their physical health. The dangers of ‘iPosture Syndrome’ and what to do to prevent it is explained by children’s Occupational Therapist, Morgan Webster, from Kids First Children’s Services in Sydney’s northern beaches.
Media in Australia and around the world has recently been focusing on the danger that ‘screen time’ poses to children’s health.
There’s no doubt that technology is being uses more in homes and in classrooms…but what is going on?
As children’s occupational therapist, I see many children whose posture affects their ability to concentrate, learn and demonstrate their full potential in the classroom and in the playground.
Now, research is starting to show that poor posture when using ‘screens’ is part of this problem.
Studies have identified that children as young as four and five years of age are reporting pain and soreness in their neck, shoulders and back and blurred vision and headaches as a result of increased ‘tech’ time while using iPads and iPods and other portable electronic devices.
These symptoms have recently been labeled ‘iPosture syndrome’.
‘iPosture Sydnrome’ happens when kids spend spend too long hunched over electronic devices. Their heads are positioned in a forward posture for too long and this has the potential to affect their health.
Forgive me for getting technical for just a moment, but what these studies are finding is that children who use tablets for long periods of time have greater head and neck flexion angles as a result of sitting the tablet on their lap.
This position (with their chin to their chest) poses a significant risk for children to develop ongoing head, neck and postural complaints.
How can iPosture Syndrome be avoided?
Researchers are discovering that when a tablet is held in a high position, it is more ergonomic. This means that productivity is optimized while fatigue and discomfort for the body is minimised.
The aim is to maintain a neutral body position, placing the least amount of stress on the muscles and body, which in turn prevents the development of postural pain.
As adults we understand the impact that staying in one position for extended periods has on our body (eg. sitting at the computer in the office)
But what are we doing to help our kids avoid the trap of technology-induced injuries?
It’s important that we parents educate our children about the importance of active movement regularly throughout the day.
We also need to help them to understand how sedentary activities impact their developing bodies.
Even while participating in handwriting or tech activities, your child needs to move so that their body stays strong, stable and engaged.
Discomfort and pain caused by poor posture when using technology is preventable.
Practical ways to prevent iPosture Syndrome
Here are some practical tips to remember when your child is actively engaging in ‘tech’ time.
- Take regular breaks
Every 10 minutes – shift positions, stand up and look around and have a wiggle.
Stretch out your arms, legs and shift your posture in variety of positions, to allow muscles to rest and recover.
- Change positions regularly
Find new positions or places around the house/classroom to complete the task, be it sitting at the kitchen bench to lying on your stomach on the floor. Each time you need/choose to use the tablet, choose a new location and body position to do it in.
- Use tools that will help
Use accessories including a mouse or keyboard to assist in maintaining an ergonomic position rather than typing on the screen.
- Look away
No…not from your children, from the screen! Regularly looking away from the screen and focusing on something across the room allows your eyes to relax.
- Switch off after two hours
It is recommended that children have less than two hours recreational screen time per day. This includes watching TV, playing computer games and surfing the net for entertainment purposes. It does not include the computer time spent doing homework. This guideline has been set to encourage children to be more physically active – particularly during day light hours. Limiting your child’s access to screens to no more than 30 minutes in a session will also help to reduce the risk of ‘iPosture Syndrome’.
Safer postures to try during ‘tech time’
- Lie flat on your stomach, with your legs extended out behind. Rest up on your elbows, with your head looking forwards and down at roughly 45 degree angle.
- Sit upright in a chair with your feet flat on the floor and bottom and back tucked in to the base of chair. Rest your forearms at a 90 degree angle from your body and keep your shoulders relaxed. Keep your head and eyes upright and look directly forwards. Make sure the tablet you or your child is using is at eye level.
- Use your tablet while standing upright at a bench. Keep your upper body upright and at a 90 degree angle to the bench. Use some books or a shelf to rise the height of the tablet so that it is at eye height.
- Sit on a fit ball (exercise ball) in the same seated position as above. This posture should mainly be used with older children who can maintain control of the fit ball safely.
Technology is not the enemy
As adults it is important to not look at technology as the enemy! We know it’s here to stay, so let’s hope educating our children (and ourselves!) in good postural habits will help them to not only enjoy ‘screen-time’, but also find a healthy balance between active living and the wonders of technology.
Concerned about your child’s posture & concentration?
Kids First’s Occupational Therapists, based in Sydney’s northern beaches, have years of experience in helping children who need to improve their posture, concentration and core strength so that they can learn and play better.
Contact us on (02) 9938 5419 or find out more about Occupational Therapy for kids here