Schoolchildren who use computers and smart phones for long periods of time could be at risk of injury, a Midlands health expert has warned.
Injury prevention specialist Salim Mughal has claimed prolonged contact with technology could result in children developing conditions more commonly seen among adult office workers.
The physiotherapist and ergonomist, who runs a practice in Solihull, said children could be at risk of developing Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI), a condition used to describe the pain which caused to muscles, nerves and tendons by repetitive movement and overuse.
RSI, which is a type of Upper Limb Disorder (ULD) mostly affects areas of the upper body, including the forearm, elbow, wrist, hands, neck and shoulders.
The disorders are usually associated with doing a particular activity repeatedly or for a long period of time, and often affects people who work with computers or carry out repetitive manual work. Mr Mughal said children’s contact with technology from an early age without monitoring from parents could mean they are more suspectable to injury. He said: “What do smart phones, games consoles and laptops have in common?
“Firstly they’re present in most homes, they’re extremely appealing to children, involve small repetitious movements of the fingers, generally require a static posture and children are exposed to them at a very early age.
“We should be very concerned about how the use of the devices has mushroomed and in particular the period of exposure.”
Around one worker in 50 in the UK has reported an RSI condition. According to charity RSI Action, 2.9 million days were lost due to work-related upper limb or neck disorders during 2010-11.
Mr Mughal said although little data exists on how common ULDs were among children, parents and teachers could “not afford to be complacent” about prolonged use of computers and consoles can have.
He said: “In some cases, children are being exposed to high levels of risk and from an earlier age.
“Young people need to be made aware of good ergonomics principles in schools and parents need to help their children manage their home exposure.
“Simple devices such as a laptop stand and independent key board can go a long to improve postural stresses.” Mr Mughal is now set to work with a regional primary school to educate staff and teachers and pupils of the potential dangers of using games consols, laptops and mobile phones for long periods.
He said: “Invariably, kids will be looking at their laptops or games consoles while on their beds or the sofa, so the posture won’t be good.
“What I want to do going into to schools is to make sure people have the knowledge to empower children to do simple things like making sure you use a laptop stand and using a desktop wherever possible.
“A great many children go into occupations where computers will be an integral part of their work and therefore early education is essential is we are going to reduce RSI problems in the workforce of the future.”
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