5 physical effects of smartphone addiction on kids

Beyond turning them into “phone zombies”, smart devices could injure your kid’s health.

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Tech dominates our world today. While it connects you to the rest of the world with the touch of a button (or swipe of a screen, whichever), there are countless negative consequences that come with this convenience.

Worse still if they are small enough to stuff in a bag and carry around — because the screen is that much smaller! Here are some ways your body suffers under prolonged use of smartphones and tablets.

1. Neck strain

“Text neck” is a repetitive strain injury or RSI you get from remaining in the posture of looking down at a screen for too long. When you are looking down at a smartphone, extra weight and strain is added on the neck. Over a period of time, it can build into quite a lot of pain.

There will also be strain placed on the back muscles, especially if the young one is hunched over an iPad, while lying down. Try to maintain good posture and sit upright, it’s better for the eyes too!

“Children under 2 should not be allowed any screen time. Parents with children above the age of 2 should limit their exposure to…one or two hours a day.”

2. Eye strain

This is the pain and discomfort that comes with staring at digital screens for more than two hours with no breaks. Eyes can get tired and vision can get blurry.

Dr Lim Kai Hung, a family physician at Lifescan Medical Centre tells us that “digital eye strain” is increasingly common amongst young children in Singapore. In fact, he believes children under 2 should not be allowed any screen time. Parents with children above the age of 2 should limit their exposure to screen time, totalling a maximum of one or two hours a day. And while doing so, it would be ideal if they can take a few minutes break in between periods of screen time — for instance, every 20 minutes — so that they can rest their eyes and focus on something further away. And not LED-lit.

3. Myopia

In the long run, regular eye strain could lead to increasing myopia which will be inconvenient to live with, especially if your tot develops this at a young age. Children are unaware of the consequences and do not understand the need to rest their eyes. It is advisable for parents to inculcate such habits from young!

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4. Finger cramp

Similar to neck and back strains, when muscles are worked out for too long with close to no break in between, you get your “iPad hand” and “text claw”. These are names for conditions where pain is experienced in the hands from the same repetitive motion. In more serious cases, fingers may even seize up in carpal-tunnel syndrome.

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5. Long-term problems like diabetes and obesity

We know addicts tend to spend long hours on their phones playing games or surfing the Internet. They usually avoid exercise — even simple movements — and may snack without thinking. In the long run, it is detrimental to the body and can increase your child’s tendency to have diabetes or be obese.

Most importantly, you should encourage your child to put down the phone/tablet/computer controls and get out of the house to do something!

Lead the way

Set a good example for your littles when you practise these habits yourself. Lifescan’s Dr Lim Kai Hung suggest the following SmartParents tips for prevention:

1. Have good sitting posture (don’t let your chin droop).

2. Place the phones as far away from eyes as possible to prevent digital eye strain.

3. An ideal position for computer work would be sitting down, with the neck and back supported, and a visual angle of about 30 degrees down from eye level when looking at the centre of the screen.

4. Do regular hand, back and neck exercises.

5. Limit tech time and allocating rest times between tech spells.

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