"Sit up straight!" It's the go-to refrain of parents everywhere, and it's an increasingly common one you may start hearing more and more thanks to phones and tablets.Increased use of digital media(and less time active playtime)is affecting children's posture, causing neck and back pain, and may permanently impact how their bodies' grow and develop, according to a pediatric orthopedist.
Cordelia Carter, M.D., pediatric orthopedic surgeon and director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine Center at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital, has noticed a change in the patients that come through her office.Children frequently come in with neck, shoulder, or low-back problems — a.k.a. "text neck" — and it's all related to how they sit.
"What it really is a trapezius muscle spasm from literally having your head bent and looking down the whole time," she says. "Every single child, when I walk into the room, they have to put their phone down because they’re using it while they’re waiting."
The result:"I just look at their posture and it’s terrible,"she adds. "Kids come in and they sit completely slouched, and that’s been a thing ad infinitum but it is definitely worse."
So far, "text neck" is phenomenon only really studied in adults. When you're looking straight ahead with your arms at your side, about 10 to 12 pounds of pressure is exerted on the neck, a 2014 study published in Surgical Technology International found. Look down 15 degrees and that number jumps to 27 pounds. At 30 degrees, it’s 40 pounds; at 45 degrees, it’s 49 pounds; and 60 degrees, it's a whopping 60 pounds. Considering most us bend our necks between 20 and 45 degrees when we’re using our phones, that's a lot of undue stress on the spine.