MomsGetReal Guest Contribution

You know, it’s really cool that our children have access to all kinds of gadgets and electronics that would have seemed like science fiction when most of us parents were younger. It’s great that our kids can use tablets too do research for their science projects. It’s wonderful that they can find all kinds of educational games and videos on mom’s laptop when it’s too rainy to go out to play. It’s reassuring to know that your child can have a cell phone in case they need to call you during that school trip they’ve been talking about all year.

There’s definitely nothing wrong with having kids use technology. But we can’t ignore the facts, and that shows that too much time on tablets, cell phones and computers is bad for our children’s posture, and if we ignore this, they could have serious health problems in the future, such as constant head aches and mobility problems.

These days, children are spending more time hunched over screens and touch screens than ever before, and staying curled up for too long can damage their neck and back muscles.  The problem is that it is so gradual; you won’t actually feel any pain until it is too late. It’s kind of like a faucet drip-drip-dripping over a long period of time. You won’t notice the effects just buy looking at it, but over months and years, the damage can be just as serious as a car crash.

The good news is that there’s lots of positive habits you can teach your children in order to avoid trips to the hospital or the  physical therapist, and we’re happy to share tips for protecting posture with you. In this post, we’ll talk about what works for younger children. Our next post will cover ideas for teens.

1. Set time limits 

This is great for so many reasons. Setting a time limit on kids playing with electronics will not only help to keep them from wasting time, it will keep them from damaging their posture.  The time is up to the parents, but I make sure my kids have to stop after 45 mins – one hour.  If they are using the tablet for a home work assignment, they have to break for 20 mins before they can use it again.   And during the break, they have to…

2. Stretch

Stretching will relieve any tension and cramped up muscles from whatever they’ve been doing.  My kids are a little older, so I use the same stretching diagrams that we use in the office with them.  I have a strict rule, which is no stretching = no tablets, and I stick to it so they mean business.  It might not seem like much, but a good stretch will go a long way towards helping protect posture.

3. Place screens at eye level

One of the biggest issues with using computers, laptops and tablets is that children are bending over and looking down as they play or watch.  Over a long time, these leads to problems with their necks, as they are crooked in an unnatural position for long periods of time.  In order to combat this, make sure that whatever set up you have, the screen is at eye level, their backs are straight and their shoulders are not hunched forward. You might also have to get them a foot rest if this means bringing their chair higher.  You can also get adjustable monitor stands, so anyone who uses it can get the screen at the right height.

(The same is also true for mobile phones.  Teach your children to keep their necks straight and shoulders back as they use the screen).

4. Take breaks and exercise

The children most at risk from having their posture damaged are those who do no exercise and simply sit on electronic devices or on the sofa all day.  Let your children use electronics, but make sure that this is only one part of an active and healthy life.  Make sure that your children get out and about and do some exercise, and if you must, set up rules that they can only use tablets and computers if they have already done some exercise.

Better still, exercise with your child, but don’t just force them to do what mom or dad does. Ask them what they want to do, and whether it is a karate class, cycling, yoga or dancing, you can join in with them or at least go along to support them. Best of all, make sure they walk! Walking is great exercise, and we often forget that. Whether its walking to school, a friend’s house, or just going for a stroll in the park, regular walking has immense health benefits for adults and kids.

5. Keep electronics and computers in family rooms

For many reasons, I think younger kids should only use electronics where they can be supervised.  This is not only to keep an eye on them and protect them from stumbling onto something horrible or pornographic on the internet. If your kids have tablets and laptops in their bedrooms, you may have no idea how long they are spending time on them or how long for. Keeping them in the family room ensure that kids are not spending hours and hours hunched up next to the screen, or watching all night cartoons and Youtube instead of sleeping.

We hope these tips have been useful to you, but remember, they are just that, tips. We are just concerned parents and bloggers, and we don’t have any professional training in these matters. If you have serious concerns about your child’s posture, fitness, or well-being, we recommend you see a qualified professional to get expert advice.