How screen time and digital technology use causes physical problems
Using digital technology for long periods of time can cause pain and discomfort. For example:
- If your child holds the same posture for a long time, they can get painful muscles and joints. This can be a particular problem if your child is in an awkward position – for example, sitting with a bent neck.
- If your child repeats the same movement many times, they 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 their eyes for a long time, it can cause sore eyes and headaches. This is because your child’s 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 your child eats
- helps your child to sleep better
- is good for your child’s mental and emotional health.
You and your child can use screen time for physical activity. But moving around while looking at a screen can lead to trips, falls and collisions, so it’s important for your child to take care.
Reducing the risk of physical problems from screen time and digital technology use
You can reduce the risk of physical problems from screen time and digital technology use by encouraging your child to:
- vary position regularly
- avoid repetitive movements
- move around with screens only in safe play environments
- take frequent breaks from screen time to do other things, especially physical activity.
You can encourage your child to:
- use different positions – for example, your child could stand at the breakfast bar to use a laptop or tablet, sit on the sofa to watch TV, and lie down to read on a phone
- lie on their tummy after they’ve been lying on their back for a while, or shift to their right side if they’ve been lying on their left side for a while.
Avoiding repetitive movements
You can encourage your child to:
- avoid mobile touch screen apps that require a lot of fast tapping and swiping or computer games that require a lot of mouse-clicking
- choose virtual reality or active video games that use a lot of different movements.
Creating safe play environments
You can help your child to:
- be aware of their surroundings when they’re looking at a screen
- clear a safe space to play active video games by moving furniture out of the way.
Breaking up screen time
You can also encourage your child to:
- take frequent breaks from screen time to do other things like physical activity, creative play, reading and socialising
- do things that get their whole body moving, like playing outside or going for a walk.
This helps to ensure that your child has a healthy approach to screen time.
It’s important for your child to maintain healthy posture. For example, your child should try to keep their neck in a neutral position when they’re using digital technology. This means that your child’s neck shouldn’t be bent too far backwards or forwards. Check out our illustrated guides to healthy screen posture for children and healthy screen posture for pre-teens and teenagers.