Screen time and physical problems

Using screens for long periods of time can cause pain and discomfort. For example:

  • If your child holds the same posture for a long time, she can get painful muscles and joints. This can be a particular problem if she’s in an awkward position, like with her neck bent.
  • If your child repeats the same movement lots of times, he can get painful muscles and joints. Examples are tapping and swiping a touch screen, swinging an arm to ‘hit’ a ball in a virtual reality game, or texting using thumbs.
  • If your child holds a screen close to her eyes for a long time, it can cause sore eyes and headaches. This is because her eyes have to work hard to focus.

Also, too much time spent sitting still can mean your child misses out on opportunities to be physically active. Being active is important because it:

  • helps your child develop and practise good coordination and balance
  • stimulates your child’s muscles and bones so that they grow strongly
  • helps your child’s body process the sugars and fats from the food he eats
  • helps your child to sleep better.

You can use screen time to encourage your child to be physically active. But your child needs to be careful with this kind of screen use. Moving around while looking at a screen can cause trips, falls and collisions.

Reducing the risk of physical problems from screen time

You can reduce the risk of physical problems from screen use by encouraging your child to vary her position regularly, avoid repetitive movements, move around with a screen only in safe play environments, and break up screen time.

Varying positions
You can encourage your child to:

  • use different positions – for example, he could stand at the breakfast bar to use a laptop or tablet, sit on the floor to watch TV, and lie down to read on his phone
  • lie on his tummy after he’s been lying on his back for a while, or shift to his right side if he’s been lying on his left side for a while.

Avoiding repetitive movements
You can encourage your child to:

  • avoid mobile touch screen apps that require lots of fast tapping and swiping or computer games that require lots of mouse-clicking
  • chose virtual reality games that use lots of different movements.

Creating safe play environments
You can help your child to:

  • remember to walk, not run, when she’s looking at a screen
  • clear a safe space to play virtual reality games by moving furniture out of the way.

Breaking up screen time
You can also encourage your child to break up screen time with other activities like physical activity, creative play, reading and socialising. This helps to ensure that your child has a healthy approach to screen time.