28 Jan Preventing Poor Posture in Children
When children first learn to sit they naturally elongate the spine. When letting the skeleton do the work of holding you up, the muscles don’t have to work as hard and the joints have minimal stress on them. Unfortunately though, sometime around preschool age most children in first world countries begin to slouch. This is most likely due to a combination of influences: adults modeling bad posture, spending more time sitting, using technology at a young age and unsupportive furniture.
School age children spend a growing amount of their free time watching TV or playing with hand-held devices and many start using tablets at laptops for school work from as early as 5 years old. Most people do not have supportive furniture in their living rooms or at school, leaving children mold their spines to the shape of a “C” and reinforcing their bad habits. Playing with a hand-held device encourages the neck and shoulders to roll forward since most people hold them a waist level
Most parents throughout history of time, have ordered their children to “sit up straight” hundreds upon hundreds of times. And most kids, sit tall for a minute and then promptly forget and slump. With a situation as common for tweens as pimples— a study of school aged children found about 38 percent of children between the ages of 4 and 12 years old, most of them boys, demonstrated poor posture..
Why is changing your children’s posture important?
Nipping posture problems in the bud at the earliest age is the key to a pain-free future. Children as young as seven are suffering back problems due to poor posture and lifestyle, say experts. A recent study of 154 10-year-olds discovered nine per cent of them already had problems with at least one of the discs in their back. Dr Francis Smith, who led the study, said: “We found degenerative changes in the spine much earlier than we ever would have suspected. This study revises our thoughts on when we should begin preventive back care. Proactive steps should begin early in life, even before puberty. Proper back care, according to Dr. Smith, should include learning about correct posture and how to stretch the back, as well as being physically active.
As physiotherapists ourselves we are seeing more children coming through with posturally related neck and back pain, even headaches and children just shouldn’t be suffering from these problems. We see the weird and wonderful postures that our own children get into when using computers and tablets and we want to help other parents prevent these problems from occurring. The problem is that it’s not an obvious disease – it’s a slow and subtle injury that could really affect them in later life.
Poor posture is also linked to mood, self-confidence, breathing, digestive problems and stress. It can become a vicious cycle – kids slump, they watch too much television, they lack energy, they slump some more.
How can you help your children improve their posture?
- Don’t let your children lie on their bed while watching TV or playing video games. Sitting on a stability ball makes it harder to slouch and strengthens their core at the same time
- See that he or she uses a rucksack, and that they use both straps to spread its weight evenly
- Ensure they don’t watch TV, play computer games or sit at a desk for more than 20 minutes without a break
- Unless you have to, don’t drive your children to school, as their walk forms an important part of their daily exercise regime
- Make sure your children’s backpack weighs no more than 10% of their body-weight
- Consider investing in a child-sized desk and chair that encourages upright posture. “The chair should support his back and his feet should reach the ground,”
- If your children works at home at the dining room table, watch out for themm perching on the seat’s edge and slumping forward. A pillow behind their back and small footstool should help provide extra support.
- Be a role model! Children naturally imitate the behavior of adults around them. If you care about your posture, so will your children.
That’s why we developed PROMETHEUS!
Designed by leading Physical Therapists, PROMETHEUS is a software solution that utilises real time posture analytics via your webcam to improve your family’s health, happiness and wellbeing – preventing pain and injury, to help optimise overall health. PROMETHEUS will also prompt you to take regular breaks from sitting or standing and alert you if you slip into poor posture habits for too long or if your blink-rate slips below optimal. The family version of PROMETHEUS allows you to set a goal and agree on a reward once the goal for the family is reached. For example, a family may agree on an outing to the movies if everyone reaches a 75% posture goal over a month. Parents are able to control how their children’s user accounts are managed and see their progress reports.