The impact of technology on childhood

10/16/18 9:31 AM

The playground used to be a noisy place in schools. Today, many students are glued to their devices and the playground has gone quiet. 

A recent Pew Research Center survey showed that nearly half of 13 to 17-year-olds are online “almost constantly.” That's a lot of screen time. It’s turning out the wear-and-tear on everything from vision to spinal health is pretty constant too, according to recent research. The long-term impact on quality of life could be devastating, specialists warn.

Where there’s excessive screen-time, there’s also poor flexibility, poor posture, inadequate core strength and repetitive strain injury - even among the fittest young people. In many cases it’s not devices per se that are causing the problems. It’s the outdoor activities that device-use is displacing - old-school activities like walking, running, skipping, jumping and horsing around.

Walking through the school's silent playground full of students glued to their phones inspired one school to turn off the wifi and set up 'Fibre Free Friday' activities. "Going out at lunchtimes and seeing the kids completely on their phones, or the gaming...I didn't hear that schoolyard laughter that I really used to enjoy," stated Tori Fleming for East Otago High School in a recent interview. 

wesley graphic

(Source: Wesley College)  "Unless parents and schools respond appropriately, the consequences will be that our young people will experience greater rates of painful injury and poorer long-term quality of life."

If it's true (as some Health professionals have been warning us) that “sitting is the new smoking” - then it’s official: children's wellbeing is seriously at risk. Among today’s teenagers, evidence is increasingly emerging of the negative physical impacts of sedentary, digital lives, prompting action by experts in human movement and physiology.

"Think about it… the average child spends about five hours a day at their school in a one-size-fits-all chair, often on computers. Then after school, children stand hunched over their phones waiting for their parents to pick them up. They get home, dump their heavy school bag and slump into the couch ready for some down time, watching TV or gaming. What is the impact? Moreover, what can we do about it?"  

Researcher Linda Stade, Wesley College 

Text neck

This is now officially a condition; a repetitive strain injury cause by continually holding the head forward and looking down at a smartphone screen. Text neck causes tension in the neck and shoulders, leading to pain, spasms, nerve pain and chronic headaches. It has also been linked to the development of early arthritis in the neck. “Looking down promotes a forward head posture. For every inch forward you hold your head, the weight carried down through the spine increases by 10 pounds” says physical therapist Dr. Karena Wu.  The pressure this puts on the front of the neck can cause damage to intervertebral discs. Chiropractor Dr. James Carter maintains that text neck can also produce emotional and behavioural changes, as the physical stress affects the release of feel-good hormones:

"Resting your chin on your chest to look at your phone stretches the spinal cord and brain stem. This can affect respiration, heart rate and blood pressure. It can also mean that happy hormones, such as endorphins and serotonin are not released, meaning people can wake up anxious."

Dr. James Carter, Chiropractor

5 Steps to better posture

  1. Remind children about posture when they are looking at phones and sitting in front of computers.
  2. Encourage them to hold their phones at eye level - and to position other devices so the head is not bend forward.
  3. Insist on frequent breaks from device use every 20 or 30 minutes. Just getting up and walking around can help.
  4. Seek professional advice on stretching and core body strength exercises that are appropriate to age and stage of development.
  5. Finally - and most importantly - limit screen-time.

Even better, encourage some outdoor play time again - and experience 'actual reality'. 

Family Zone Education Solutions

Family Zone takes an 'ecosystem' approach to cyber safety. Through our Partner School Program our Community Engagement Team works with teachers, parents  and school communities on the importance of age-appropriate boundaries on all devices, particularly smartphones.

Our technology ensures ALL devices - both on and off-network - comply with school internet use policies in school time. 

If you'd like a bit more noise back in your school playground, contact us for more information.

 

 


 

Michelle Polglase

Written by Michelle Polglase

A lifelong learner who loves tech and digital strategy.