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Computers and Your Children

October 15, 2012

Many kids take naturally to computers and educators want to make sure they become computer literate to succeed in the 21st Century.  But while those computers are stimulating young minds, what are they doing to young bodies?

Most computers used by children in the home and at school are not being used on proper workstations.  Children will be using computers all their lives and must be taught how to use them safely and avoid problems now and in the future.

Television media reported last month that the use of computers by children, from grade school ages and older, is creating an early onset of health problems.  More and more cases of neck, shoulder, and back pain are being reported in young children as well as repetitive strain injuries commonly seen in adults.  A major contributor being the use of computers, and not to mention video games.

As adults we spend hours upon hours in front of the computer screen and at the end of the day we are complaining of tension and pain in the neck, and shoulders.  We already know that this repetitive, continuous activity can lead to postural and muscular imbalances.   What takes us hours to experience these problems takes children minutes.  Even one hour, on a regular basis, in front of the computer for a child manifests the same results.  Children may not complain of stiffness or limited range of motion, instead they may complain of headaches, difficulty sleeping, and neck pain.  This problem among our children is largely going unnoticed.  If we continue to ignore it we will be seeing an increase in health problems in young adults.  At present rates, today’s children will spend more than two years during their lifetimes on e-mail and more than 23 years on the Internet. Why wait until your children develop these painful symptoms, when we can be pro-active today and take steps to prevent these potential problems from occurring.

What can you do?  Monitor your children’s use of the computer.  Make sure they use them over small intervals, and that they take frequent breaks.  Monitor their posture while at the computer.  Knees and elbows should be kept at an angle of 90 degrees or greater.  They should have good back support, the feet should be flat on the floor or on a footrest.  The wrists should be in a flat neutral position while typing. Have them sit at a safe distance away from the computer screen (approx. 20 inches). Speak to the schools and encourage them to prepare proper ergonomic workstations for the students.  Many educators are unaware of the impact this is having on children’s spines.  Proper stretching techniques for the neck, shoulder, and back muscles on a regular basis, especially during and after using the computer can help combat the strain. Regular check-ups with the chiropractor and massage therapist will help to correct any postural and muscular imbalances, which develop as a direct result of computer use.

As technology continues to develop toward the computer and digital realm, this problem is only going to grow.  We have the opportunity and knowledge today to take the appropriate action steps and give our children the care they need – the care that was unavailable to us as children.