Faster internet speeds, six weeks holiday and greater WiFi availability are just the right ingredients to tempt kids on-line for hours on end. With no school time structure or familiar routine, the Summer holidays for some, can cause a massive spike in technology usage in children and teens.
Whilst there’s no doubt that using technology has its major plus sides, it’s important for us as parents to understand the variety of safety aspects around usage and I don’t just mean staying ‘safe on-line’ in the traditional sense of the word. Although saying that, on-line safety is a serious and important topic that should be discussed within the family unit.
In 2014 a study of 461 parents was conducted who had children between the ages of 11-16. Alarmingly 40% of these children suffered from either back or neck pain and even more worryingly, 15% of the parents said they believed the pain was a direct result from overuse of technology.
With 1 in 3 children owning a smartphone or tablet, these statistics are just the very tip of the iceberg. I firmly believe we are at the cusp of a health epidemic in our young from using technology above the screen safety guidelines and in the wrong way from a physical point of view. The long-term effects are still widely unknown by medical professionals as we never previously had access to the internet in such an epic scale as now and it’s still evolving.
The Summer holidays are looming so we’ve highlighted some of the key things you should look out for and some handy tips on how to establish #HealthyDigitalHabits during the Summer break.
Turn off location settings
Some social media platforms will publish your child’s location without them necessarily being aware of it. It’s always wise to switch off location settings on your child’s smartphone or tablet so their position is unknown. As a mum of three children myself, I would not like my child’s location being broadcast over the internet, not only to their network but to their networks contacts also.
An obvious one here and I am sure you’ve got it covered already but if not, there are some great packages out there such as Intego Family Protector for Macs. See PC Advisors top free parental control software for 2015 that can help keep your child safe on-line from adult and inappropriate content.
Hours spent hunched over a screen is quite literally ‘a pain in the neck’. Dr Kenneth Hansraj, a New York Spine Surgeon’s research shows that the average human head weighs around 10-12lbs, at varying angles (tilting forwards and downwards) the weight of the head and pressure on the cervical spine increases up to a factor of five. So at a 60 degree tilt, the head weighs a whopping 60lbs!
With chiropractors and physiotherapists seeing an increase in primary school children needing treatment, this is a very worrying sign. Although we tilt our head in a similar position when reading a book, the issue is the amount of time our heads are put in this position with limited breaks. Adults and children alike are moving from one technical device to another seamlessly so the opportunity of the head to be placed in this position is greater now that mobile phones have internet access.
Check out Technology Overuse Injuries in Children – What Every Parent Needs to Know for more information on a range of symptoms and also download this 3 minute stretching routine for kids from StraightenUp UK.
Getting kids active
An obvious suggestion I know but as parents (collectively) we must be missing the point still as kids in the UK aren’t as active as recommended by the NHS. Did you know that to maintain a basic level of health, children between the ages of 5-18 should undertake at least 1 hour of physical activity every day.
According to the Public Health Report a quarter of children aged between 2-10 years old are overweight or obese. Some children are spending up to 6 hours a day on a screen, what hope do they have of becoming healthy adults if we don’t get to grips with what’s happening around us.
Summer holidays are the perfect time to get your kids outdoors and active. With a few weeks left to plan activities, it may help to get the children motivated away from the screens by involving them in the planning with an easy to use template, encouraging communication, participation and the added benefit of helping to manage their expectations on how their days are going to be structured.
With no alarm clock blaring or parent dragging the covers off and opening the curtains to a blinding bright light in the early hours, the tendency is to sleep in a little later (I mean, who doesn’t love a lie in? hello!). Late starts in the morning can also mean, late nights using screens.
With awareness growing around the health implications of the ‘blue screen’ at bedtime I wasn’t quite prepared for learning that adolescent boys with screen time of two or more hours per day have twice the risk of abnormal levels of insulin associated with type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease than boys exposed to less screen time (Hardy et al, 2010).
My eldest son is 8 years old I am so pleased to say, it’s shocked me enough to be even stricter when ensuring he stays within the healthy limits for screen usage.
Ah, that old chestnut. “I’m bored, there’s nothing to do”. Yeah, yeah and yeah we’ve all heard it umpteen times and the responses vary from parent to parent. Mine being only boring people get bored (an old one but a good one) but seriously, boredom is definitely a factor in an increase in device usage.
Best tip here is to go back to try and prevent this surfacing with some planning. If you can plan activities in so their expectations are managed it’s going to be a lot easier to stay within the screen time limits. There’s nothing wrong with allowing them to jump on a screen here and there but it helps to make a note of how long they go on each time or set a timer.
Here’s to a brilliant Summer!
Image source: Washington Post | splumber.com