We used to worry about our kids getting ‘square eyes’. Now, it’s ‘text neck’ – and the side effects for posture and back pain are alarming. 

As you are reading this article take note of your posture. Is your head leaning forward? Are your shoulders hunched? If you are reading on a phone are your arms bent at your sides? The position you are currently holding has a name: “Text Neck” – and it is causing back pain and headaches at an alarming rate.

In the “olden days” before laptops and mobiles were essential everyday items, adults who had worked long years pouring over books would present with posture-related pain issues. Now, children are reporting the same symptoms which can only increase as the modern lifestyle depends on using electronic devices for everything.

Taking away smartphones and laptops is never going to be a popular option. It is unrealistic too, considering work, communication, entertainment and information is designed to be filtered on devices. You can encourage kids and teens to seek outdoor activities but the truth is parents are keeping offspring indoors more than they did a few decades ago because it no longer feels as safe. This results in more hours with technology whether it is the television, video games or simply texting mates.

Educating children around the mechanics of the human body and the effects of poor posture is the first step in avoiding back and neck pain. The human body was designed for movement. If the body stays in the same position for long periods it falls asleep. Every twenty minutes standing, walking around the room and stretching reminds you to notice your body and how it feels, and keeps it healthy.

Using a computer places a lot of weight on the spine. An adults head weighs roughly 5 kg when standing straight and tall. However, when the neck is leaning forward the outlay of strength needed to keep it steady doubles, effectively making it weigh 10kg. Children and adults alike will lean towards the screen so setting it up in the best way ergonomically will reduce strain risk.

When we use smart phones, generally they are in our lap. We need to bring them up in front of our faces. The good news for Android users is that their phones have included a feature to overcome posture problems. Androids will show a green light when they are at a good reading angle and red light for a poor angle. Hopefully there will be a similar update to future versions of the iPhone.

For people who love their tech there is a wearable device called Lumo Lift that records your bio mechanics data everyday through a discreet sensor and sends readable data back to an app.  

If your kids are studying for long hours on the books or the computer, they might consider using a back brace at home if not at school. There are many kinds of braces, some specifically for the shoulders, or lower back, or simple posture trainers. They work by reminding the wearer of their ideal posture and if worn over a period of time the person will naturally come to adopt the optimal position. By nature, human beings need more than awareness to remedy an issue so this is why a gentle physical intervention like back bracing is a great help.

Getting kids practicing safer methods of interacting with technology is setting them up for the future. They have many years ahead connected to devices and with chronic pain onset in men now as low as 37 years old you are really helping your kids avoid lifestyle associated back pain by getting them in good habits when they’re young.

Further reading
http://edition.cnn.com/2012/09/20/health/mobile-society-neck-pain/
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2014/12/27/text-neck-posture.aspx