Make Posture Part of Your Child’s Routine
As every parent knows, the best way to get your kids to make the healthy choice is to make it the fun choice, too. A healthy and tasty meal goes down easier than health food and a lecture.
You probably already think of your child’s physical health the same way. You wouldn’t make your child run on a treadmill if they prefer to burn calories on the soccer field.
Posture is another, often-overlooked element of physical health and, likewise, it’s less about constant reminders to sit up straight and more about creating an environment in which good posture comes naturally, and lasts a lifetime.
That means instilling positive habits, such as not using electronic devices in bed. And the right equipment, such as a child-sized chair or stability ball, can make it easier to get into the habit.
Good posture is important — it leads to healthy bone and muscle development and prevents pain in childhood and later in life. But there are more threats to good posture than ever.
As children receive smartphones at a younger age — the average age to receive their first one is now about 10 years old — they are adopting their parents’ posture habits along with their tech habits.
That means hours spent with shoulders scrunched and necks bent, their attention directed downward. It has given rise to a new ailment: text neck.
In one 2017 study, children were found to spend five hours a day and adolescents seven hours with their heads tilted forward, reading and texting on their devices. This adds up to between 1,825 and 2,555 hours a year adding stress to their neck, especially the upper spine.
Pain is now quite common. This study found that almost nine in 10 kids were diagnosed with neck pain, though other studies have found lower amounts. Studies have also identified a link between pain and habitually bending the neck forward.
This extra stress occurs because bending your head forward puts more pressure on the spine. Leaning forward to look at a text can put your neck under five times as much stress as it is when upright.
And good news for your device-loving little ones: You don’t have to take away your child’s phone to promote good posture. Here are a few tips:
- Raise your phone to eye level so your head doesn’t tilt to read it.
- Take some breaks to give your neck a rest.
- Consider cutting down on texting by using your phone in a novel way — make a call.
- Stretch the neck and shoulders to release tension.
- Choosing the best backpack.
Choosing an appropriately sized backpack for your child is another opportunity to keep a healthy posture in mind. Raymund Woo, MD, pediatric orthopedic surgeon at Florida Hospital for Children, has six tips to help your child avoid potential problems:
- Adjust the straps so they are snug. The bottom of the backpack should be about 2 inches above the waist.
- Use both straps so the weight is spread across the entire back.
- Choose padded straps to reduce shoulder stress.
- Use the waist belt if it is available.
- Distribute the weight evenly across the compartments of the backpack.
- Store books in the locker when they’re not being used.
Weight is important, too. Dr. Woo says a backpack should not weigh more than five percent to seven percent of the child’s body weight. To learn how much your child’s backpack should weigh for a child of a given weight, check out our handy online guide.
Picking up and carrying a backpack is an opportunity to teach kids healthy body mechanics. Instead of leaning forward and yanking the backpack off the ground, kids should get close, bend at the hips and lift with the legs while tightening the abdominal muscles.
Make good posture fun
Just as you care about your posture on the job, think about ways to help your kids maintain good posture at home. Here are some ideas:
- If a child is slouching, it may mean they need exercise. Encourage them to take a walk or play.
- Children may enjoy stability balls, which can help them develop their balance and perhaps pay more attention.
- Model good posture yourself.
Part of whole-body health
Like so much of our health, posture is so often described in the negative, as a problem to avoid.
But it’s really another example of a goal to achieve.
Keep your children focused on their overall health by talking about posture as just another element of it, like nutrition and avoiding germs. At Florida Hospital for Children, we know how posture and movement affects both our bodies and minds, by helping us be confident and self-assured while boosting our mood.
For more information, call us at (855) 303-KIDS (5437) or schedule an appointment on our website.