By Nardine Bekhit
As children are getting back into their school routines, screen time and sitting time are inevitably going to increase. Sitting for longer periods of time, coupled with poor posture associated with phone and tablet use, can have a negative impact on developing spines. You may have heard of the prevalence of “text neck” or “iPosture” in all age groups. Normally, your ear and shoulder should line up vertically. In “text neck,” the head is forward, which has secondary effects on the rest of the upper body, such as rounded upper back and shoulders, compressed rib cage and decreased core activation. Even a few centimetres of forward head posture can increase the risk of neck and upper back pain, muscle tightness and headaches.
Chiropractors are already seeing the impact prolonged screen time has on children and teens in terms of poor posture habits. While the use of technology can be a learning tool and a skill for children, it is important that they learn good habits to protect their spines. Here are four tips to help reduce the negative impacts of screen time on your child’s spine and posture.
Limit Screen Time
When it comes to screen time, balance is key. Too much screen time can also lead to other problems, such as poor eyesight, sleep problems, weight gain, reduced focus and impaired communication skills. For children under the age of two, healthcare professionals generally recommend avoiding screen time altogether (with the exception of live video chats with family and friends). After the age of two, it is recommended to limit screen time to less than an hour a day, broken down into two half-hour sessions. This is because after 30 minutes, the muscles that support your child’s spine begin to fatigue, making the child more prone to slump and slouch. As children get older, continue to place consistent limits and establish screen-free zones at home, such as bedrooms, and times of day, such as mealtimes.
If your child spends time on a computer or laptop at home, set them up with a standing desk. This will help keep the core and back muscles engaged, taking the stress off of the smaller muscles of the neck.
Talk to your Child About Posture
Children like to know the reasons why they should or shouldn’t do something. Explain in simple terms the effects of poor posture on their spine and overall health. Make them aware of what good posture is and remind them to self-correct if they are slouching.
Take Stretch Breaks Together
Practise stretching and moving with your children. Chances are, you also spend too much time in front of screens and could benefit from a stretch break. Put down the phone, tablet or laptop and get up and move around. Get your children moving their bodies as much and as often as possible.
Movement isn’t just important for muscle development and expending energy. Movement of the spine sends information to the brain that is essential for proper brain and nervous system development. In most cases, movement doesn’t happen behind a screen. So keep your kids moving, playing, learning and growing!
If you’re not sure where to start, bring your child in for a spinal health check with your chiropractor, who can guide you and your child with spinal health education tips, posture stretches and exercises.
Nardine Bekhit is a doctor of chiropractic at CURAVITA Health Group, Glebe Location, formerly known as Glebe Chiropractic Clinic + Massage Therapy Centre. You can reach the clinic at 613-237-9000 or at www.CURAVITA.com