Have you heard of 'Gameboy back'? The name was coined by two Dutch surgeons, Andre Soeterbroek and Piet van Loon, referring to the back problems being suffered by children up to the age of 18, from hunching over their electronic devices.
Bad posture has always been a concern when it comes to children. There's a reason why 'sit up straight' and 'stand up straight' are such stereotypical parental 'nags.' However these days, the issue is becoming worse, as orthopedic surgeons are apparently treating more children for the kinds of back problems they've mainly seen in much older patients. It's all being attributed to kids spending too much time hunched over handheld games, tablets and smartphones.
Soeterbroek and van Loon say that it's been over a century since these kinds of symptoms were common in children.
"In those days, kids got weak back from child labour, now they're getting it from these devices," Dr. Soeterbroek told The Irish Times back in August. "It makes no difference to the body whether you're hunched over in a cigar factory or spending eight hours over an iPad."
This constant hunching over can cause the spine to slowly change from its gentle curves to more of a C-shape. This puts extra strain on the muscles and vertebrae, resulting in headaches, sniff necks and even a herniated disc.
There's no call to ban these devices, of course. Soeterbroek and van Loon simply suggest that parents can correct the problem, and prevent the need for their child to see a doctor, by teaching their children better posture. One way they say you can test if your child is affected is by having them bend over to touch their toes. Weight is certainly a factor in being able to do that, but if they can't, it could be due to curvature in their spine.
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Even though this has been called 'Gameboy back' and most of the focus seems to be on children, this kind of problem isn't limited to those under 18. With computers and mobile devices already a big part of our lives and seeing more use all the time, there are plenty of adults that suffer through the same problems. An entire field of study, along with manufacturing and sales of the products that come out of that field has risen up around the concept that we need to take better care of our backs.
So, if attention to posture has, indeed, nearly vanished around the world, and poor posture in kids is now seen as normal, as Soeterbroek and van Loon told The Daily Mail, perhaps it's time to revive old stereotypes, but heed them ourselves, as well.
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