As digital devices become more commonplace in our schools and computer users get younger and younger, it’s time we think about the likely proliferation of musculoskeletal problems among younger generations.
Children and young people in school today never knew a time ‘BC’, or before computers. Because of this, their bodies have likely been subjected to the repetition of typing, texting, clicking and poor, static postures associated with the use of digital devices since they were very young. (Think how we brag about our children using tablets and smartphones from the age of three or four!)
By the time they get into full-time work, many of them will have already spent about 18 years hunched over their smartphone, tablet, computer-game console, e-reader, etc.
Overuse injuries, which are a common problem among young athletes, may similarly become a problem for young people who spend decades on computers. What will their futures be like if they develop musculoskeletal problems at such a young age?
…physicians and coaches should strive for early recognition and prevention and treatment of overuse injuries (tendinitis, apophysitis, stress fractures, “shin splints”). Child athletes should never be encouraged to “work through” such injuries.
Just like with young athletes, young computers users need to start thinking about their use of digital devices if they want to sustain a lifetime of pain-free computer use.
Here are Safe Hands DSE’s five tips for parents and children to help avoid the pitfalls of overuse injuries from computers:
1. Don’t make using the computer a reward.
2. Be a good example by being able to put your phone, tablet, etc. down.
3. Location, location, location.
Watch where (and how) your children are using their digital devices. Lying on the floor in front of a laptop is not safe. Set up an ergonomically-sound computer workspace for your children and don’t let them use their laptop, desktop, tablet anywhere else or in any other way.
4. Limit the total amount of time they spend on all devices.
Often we don’t include “leisure” time we spend on digital devices as part of our total time spent. For example, if your children are just on Snapchat with their friends, does it count? Absolutely! Because most likely they are bending their neck down in a way that will eventually cause injury if it carries on unabated for years on end. We cannot just count the time we spend doing “formal” activities like school work as computer time. It all counts and it all adds up.
5. Get moving.
Take the time away from digital devices moving, walking, exercising, even just standing—anything but more sitting.