Kids, Tech, and Health: Preventing Childhood Tech Neck
By Sara Butler
Technology is remarkable. The smartphones and tablets we hold in our hands have more processing power than the computers used to send men to the moon. We may use all that computing power to watch cat videos on YouTube, but when you think about it you realize just how amazing it is.
When I was a kid we had four television channels that, if you wanted to watch them free from lines or squiggles, you had to wrestle with the bunny ears antenna on top of the television to get it in just the right position. There may or may not have been tin foil involved. In lieu of another Beverly Hillbillies rerun, I’d often just play outside until my mom made me come home.
As a parent today, times have sure changed. I know, I know -- parents always say that. But truly, things are different. My children are on iPads at school all day, then come home and want to play games on their tablets or fire up the Wii. In fact, according to a study by Common Sense Media, the daily mobile screen time of American kids today is 10 times higher than it was in 2011 -- and that’s detrimental to their health and wellness because of the effects of tech neck.
Here are some tips from the chiropractors at The Joint Chiropractic to help you educate your child about the dangers of tech neck.
What is Tech Neck?
Sitting for long periods of time with your head hanging forward looking down at a device can lead to tech neck. This can lead to pain and discomfort caused by:
- Nerve impingement
- Disc injury
- Muscle strain
This condition used to be called “text neck,” but is now referred to as tech neck because it’s not just about texting anymore. The time you or your child spend looking at a screen can cause damage to the structures in the neck and spine. That’s why it’s so important to ensure your kids take steps to stay healthy as they learn to navigate the world of technology.
Help Your Child Get Active
One of the best ways to help your child avoid tech neck is to encourage daily activity. As any parent knows, the key to getting your kids to do what you want is to trick them -- I mean, compromise with them. Even if they’re watching television, have them use commercial time to get a little movement in. Walking in place, stretching, or doing a few jumping jacks will help prevent the muscle strain that can accompany sitting in one place for a long time.
It’s not a bad idea to have them take frequent breaks when they’re watching television or using devices. At least once an hour, if not more often, they need to take a break.
Start the Day with Stretches
When you wake up your child in the morning, take five minutes to help them stretch. Stretching helps them to stay flexible and can help take strain and stress off the spine. It’s crucial to do this before they spend the whole day sitting at school or starting an activity in which they’ll be seated.
Use Tech Correctly
Unless you plan on joining an Amish community, you can’t avoid technology -- and neither can your children. The damage done by tech is due to the forward head position many people use as they look down at their devices. Teach your child to hold their tablet or phone up to their face. Keeping it at eye level can help to reduce the pressure placed on the neck.
Limit Screen Time
Limiting screen time and helping your child to find a balance between the online world and the real world is important. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children over 2 years of age shouldn’t have more than two hours of screen time each day. This might be easier said than done, but to help your child stay healthy, it’s important to help them find other activities to fill their time.
See the Chiropractor
Don’t forget that chiropractic care is for people of all ages. Your child can’t avoid technology, so make sure they’re starting off with a solid foundation of good spinal health. The chiropractors at The Joint can make sure your child is free from joint restriction and dysfunction so that using tech doesn’t make an already existing problem worse.
Help your children navigate the world of technology in a healthy way. Teach them how to use it and make sure they know there’s a lot more to the world than funny cat videos.
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