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iPad neck – why kids are at high risk

The dangers of ‘iPad’ neck in kids and why they’re at high risk of neck and back pain


Rosemary Marchese – Physiotherapist

Children who spend more than 30 minutes at a time on their iPads in one sitting are setting themselves up for chronic neck and back pain later in life. Research in this area is growing, and it’s fairly easy now to predict that bad tech habits will cause musculoskeletal issues in adulthood, if not even in childhood. I am already seeing young children complaining of neck and back pain from iPad and phone use.

Despite many experts warning that children should only spend 30 minutes or less on these devices in one sitting, many children are using these devices for longer than that. And, it’s not just because parents let them. More and more schools are introducing iPads into their curriculum and I’ve even see children try to type up lengthy assignments on an iPad instead of a desktop computer. It’s important that schools start to recognise that the implementation of these devices may be great for education, but that they, as well as parents, should try to implement strategies to maximise safety and healthy postural habits. Then there’s the other issue that a lot of these children are even taking these devices to bed, lying and sitting around in very slouched postures.

The dangers of text neck

Slumping over with a bad posture (think about that child with the iPad on his lap) leads to knots forming in neck muscles, which makes the nerves more sensitive to pain. This can lead to pain in the head, with the child starting to experience tension-type headaches like a tight, pressing pain on both sides of the head and sometimes even at the base of the head. Most tension headaches are caused by muscles in the neck.


Dangers of text neck

  • The extra pressure from the ‘text neck’ position can lead to wear and tear and yes, down the track this can even result in surgery.
  • Tilting the head by 45 degrees adds a force of about 22kg to the neck.
  • Tilting the head by about 30 degrees adds about 18kg.
  • Tilting the head by a mere 15 degrees can place an extra 12kg of force onto the spine.
  • Children are placing themselves into postures that encourage headaches and neck and back pain.

 ‘Tilting the head at a 60-degree angle to look at a phone screen places an extra 27 kg worth of person the cervical spine (neck), which is heavier than the average seven-year-old!’

Tips for avoiding text neck pain

To minimise the risk of acute and chronic neck pain from iPad and phone use in kids:

  • Limit iPad use to 30 minutes in one sitting, possibly less for younger children or those with poor posture.
  • Limit the downwards movement of the neck and try to prop up the iPad rather than look down on it.
  • Schools should encourage the use of desktop computers, rather than iPads, at home where possible, especially for major assignments or projects that require longer periods of typing.
  • Engage children in exercise that encourages improved posture.
  • Encourage children to stretch and move regularly during the day rather than adopting prolonged sitting habits where possible.