Your Child and Their iPad: Friend or Foe?

iPad and other tablet devices are increasingly being used by children all over the world for both education and social activities. The use of these devices has revolutionised the way we work but at what cost. There are both anecdotal and research evidence that supports that there is an increase in neck and back problems in children as a result of the usage of tablets. This article highlights a physiotherapist perspective on the growing epidemic of neck and back pain from increased tablet device usage.

The use of the iPad and other tablet devices has grown rapidly both within the class room and in the home. Both anecdotal and research evidence highlight the increasing incidence of neck and back pain due to computer usage. A contributing factor could be the increasing time spent in front of screens in particularly bad postures. It is much easier to achieve a good posture in front of a desk top computer than it is in front of a note-book or indeed a tablet computer. Tablet or notebook usage encourages too much of a bend at the neck due to the position that the positioning of the device. It is very difficult to achieve a good position with tablets and prolonged and excessive stress placed on the neck, back and shoulders is the result. This exposes the user (which in many cases would be a child or adolescent) to stressful forces for long periods resulting in neck pain, headaches, jaw pain, shoulder and back pain. These are all seen more often by this author within his practice.

Children who are born today will by the time they reach 30 years of age have spent a decade (yes 10 years) in front of a screen of some sort. Implement strategies for reducing the excessive exposure and the prolonged forces of tablet usage. There is no doubt that these devices have revolutionised the way we work and have far-reaching benefits in both education, home and work settings so just stopping their usage is halting progress. They are here to stay so steps so take steps to use them in such a way as to minimise the negative impact on the musculoskeletal system.

There are two aspects that are vital to deal with:

  • The time spent in front of devices without taking breaks or correcting their posture.
  • Encouraging less stressful postures whilst using any device.

Reducing the overall cumulative time in front of any device:
Allowing kids to use these in their rooms without supervision might encourage excessive use of these devices. Many Internet security software providers have features limiting the time spent on the internet. Encourage time-out periods away from the tablet. I recommend people have micro breaks every 15 minutes. Don’t allow yourself to sit for longer for longer than 30 minutes without a 5 minute timeout. This might mean getting up and moving around.

The neck’s forward position that the head, neck, and back adopts during tablet usage produces the harmful forces which can lead to neck, back and shoulder pain. The forward head position increases the forces on the discs, the facet joints and muscles in the neck and the larger muscles in the neck overwork. This then held for long period’s cause’s micro trauma and pain. It is essential to optimise our posture whilst using these devices. Active posture correction and correct positioning of the device will achieve this. Reduce the acute neck angle by positioning the tablet. This might mean that you place it on a table as you would in a desktop situation. A recent study done at Harvard University demonstrated that one should not rely solely on the cases available as these still don’t reduce the angle much to reduce the neck angle and forces. An external keyboard can help with better positioning of the tablet if typing.
With the increasing forces placed on the neck and the exploding time in which children are using tablets it is important that we take the proper steps to protect our childrens’ necks and backs. Why not contact your trusted Physiotherapist to make an apointment to get your child pain free now.

Coastal Physiotherapy & Sport Injury Clinic is the leading Gold Coast Physio provider and will help you beat those neck and shoulder pains that affect your life.

For more information, or to book (BOOK NOW) your initial consultation, talk to your friendly Gold Coast Physio today on (07) 55 271071.