The toll of electronic devices on our children’s health

Our children are faced with a widening range of health issues as they become more sedentary and device orientated. Whether it’s muscle or joint pain, headaches, postural distortions, or obesity— the toll on their wellbeing can be significant.

Studies have shown that a staggering 20% to 35% of children and adolescents experience chronic pain. Ongoing physical discomfort can be triggered by an injury or illness, or the cause may remain undiagnosed. Sadly, regularly experiencing pain can reach its uncomfortable tentacles into every aspect of a child’s life. It can affect their school performance, social engagement, and sleep; eventually putting their physical and mental health at risk.

Along with chronic pain, weight is a major health concern for the younger generation. An Australian government report stated that one-quarter of Australian children and adolescents are overweight or obese. In the short-term, carrying excess weight may diminish quality of life. Long-term, obese children and adolescents face a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoarthritis and certain cancers as adults.

The current guidelines for children include 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity every day and limiting their use of electronic devices and television screen time to no more than two hours a day. These recommendations are rarely followed, with the average 13-year-old spending more than three hours staring at some sort of screen every day. This can contribute to weight gain, poor posture and increased pain.

Children also face other modern challenges. Repetitive stress injuries such as “text thumb, text neck and selfie elbow” are now common complaints. Constantly being hunched over a phone screen can reduce breath function. Gazing downward creates stress in the joints of the neck. Back, neck and shoulder pain and headaches are more common in children who use a computer for two or more hours per day. This includes most, if not all, Australian children.

Ah, the joys of technology! Luckily, because of their youth, the impact of these challenges can be reversed with the right care. You can help your child by encouraging regular physical activities that they enjoy, as well as providing a healthy balanced diet.

Chiropractors can also play a role in keeping children well. Your chiropractor can provide ergonomic advice to lessen the strain of sitting at a screen. They can assess your child’s spine to determine any joint dysfunction or the presence of scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine) and then provide appropriate care and advice.

This article first appeared in the May/June edition of ‘Your Chiropractor’. To read more, download the newsletter linked on our May update.