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Young Children May Be At Risk For Musculoskeletal Problems Due to Tablet Use

Young Children At Risk For Skeletal Problems Due to Tablet UseA small study examined five children (ages 3-5 years old) participating in three conditions (15 minutes each) in randomized order:

1) playing with traditional age appropriate toys to simulate free play environment (e.g. drawing/crafts, trains, toy cars).

2) playing with iPad2 with a range of age appropriate apps.

3) viewing television with a range of age appropriate programs.

During the different conditions mentioned above three variables were measured: mean and variation in dominant arm hand movement using an ActiGraph GT3X+, wrist, thorax and head posture  with Vicon motion analysis and upper trapezius muscle activity with an EMG system.

The results indicated the following:

  1.  the most hand movement occurred during traditional play followed by tablet use with television viewing being the least
  2. greatest mean and variation in upper trapezius muscle activity during playing with traditional toys followed by tablet play and than television viewing.
  3. mean neck flexion during tablet play was greater than the other conditions.
  4. the thorax was also more flexed during tablet play than when playing with toys or watching television.

In summary, tablet computer use by young children results in less movement, muscle activity, repetitive wrist movement and poor spinal posture than toy play.  All of these issues may put children at risk of musculoskeletal symptom development.

Remember to offer children ample time for typical play time to avoid overuse issues from excessive tablet use.  Need ideas?  Check out Play Move Develop.

Play Move Develop from http://yourtherapysource.com/playmove.html

Play Move Develop includes 100 reproducible games and activity ideas to encourage motor skill development and learning in children. Great resource for fun, home exercise program activities. FIND OUT MORE.

Reference:  Straker, L et al. Movement, posture and muscle activity in young children using tablet computers. Retrieved from the web on 1/31/16 at http://ergonomics.uq.edu.au/iea/proceedings/Index_files/papers/1899.pdf