Start the school year by encouraging good habits while using devices
School is back and it is a great time to encourage kids into good habits while using electronic devices.
In the last few years we have seen a large increase in the number of children coming into the clinic with discomfort and pain related to postural strain from device use. Devices such as iPhones, iPads, laptops.
The use of these devices is fast becoming a compulsory requirement in education. As a parent it is all about managing your child’s use and posture whilst on the devices to prevent any problems. Generally kids spend longer durations of time on devices at home compared to school so we encourage you to improve the habits of use in the home.
Common complaints our Osteopaths see from device use
- Pain in the neck and upper back
- Repetitive movement injuries resulting in elbow, wrist and thumb pain
Why does this pain and discomfort occur?
- Poor posture of the child whilst using the device encouraging a slumped spine and head looking down position.
- Prolonged periods of immobility
- Device use encourages continuous, repetitive movements of the same muscles and joints of the hand.
Why does this posture cause problems?
Commonly the posture assumed during device use is looking down at a screen while sitting in a slumped position
- This changes the spinal curves and takes them out of their optimal position for shock absorption and efficient movement. This may predisposed to muscle tightness and joint strain.
- As a result of looking down at a device, the head is hanging forwards in relation to the upper back. This means the weight of the head is no longer being held up by the spinal joints and as a result the muscles of the back of the head and neck have to contract continuously to hold the head up in space. They are not designed to function like this. Over a period of time they will be predisposed to muscle strain and pain.
What you can do to prevent this
Manage the duration and frequency of use
- Limit the time spent on device in one sitting – Encourage a break every 20-30 mins. Use should be no longer than 60 in one go.
- Regular pauses and breaks in-between these blocks of use – make the breaks active and meaningful to the child
Manage Position and posture
- Encourage to sit in proper chairs – adjustable desk chairs are the best
- iPad use – Lift the height of the screen. Prop the iPad up with a cushion or stand to avoid them sitting for prolonged periods in a slumped spine position with the head looking down.
- Laptop use – consider sitting at a proper desk and ensuring good desk set up with a laptop stand and separate keyboard. Especially for older kids and teenagers that spend prolonged periods at the computer.
- Consider the use of a Sit-stand desk to allow regular variations in posture.
- Avoid sitting with a laptop directly on knees – heat from underneath the laptop can harm the skin on the legs
- Consider the transportation of devices to and from school. Laptops are surprisingly heavy and add a considerable amount of weight to the school bag. A good quality bag with proper shoulder straps and harness, when worn correctly, can help avoid shoulder and back pain due to carrying devices and books.
Manage the repetitive movements
- Encourage the child to alternate use of hands.
- Learn how to use the mouse in the non dominant hand
- Taking regular breaks to move and use arms and hands in a different way
One important thing to consider is to encourage children to respond to discomfort. If they start to notice discomfort encourage them to move, change positions and follow up periods of sedentary computer use with a physical activity. If symptoms do continue to linger teach the child to communicate this discomfort with you.
Our Osteopaths can assess and identify any postural strain, muscle or joints that aren’t working at their optimum. We can also advise on optimal ergonomic computer set up and correct stretching techniques to prevent and manage discomfort or strain.
If you have any postural concerns please feel free to contact us or bring your child in for an assessment.