Screentime Overload: How Excessive Screentime Use by Children is Causing Postural Stress

Screentime Overload: How Excessive Screentime Use by Children is Causing Postural Stress

Screen Time Overload: How Excessive Screentime Use by Children is Causing Postural Stress

Postural stress challenges in children caused by excessive screen time are a growing concern in today’s tech-driven world. With the use of digital devices starting earlier and increasing with age, it is important to understand their impact on our children’s physical, emotional and oral health.

Recognising these stress symptoms early can help avoid the potential long-term effects on their overall well-being and support their healthy development.

Remember too, these insights and challenges apply to all of us! The ‘digital soup’ we all live in compels us to develop a more holistic approach to reduce postural stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Mobile devices specifically contribute to poor posture, especially with prolonged use. Parents, teachers and health practitioners need to know the strategies for reducing postural stress in children with excessive screen time. Emphasising the importance of good posture and regular physical activity are essential components for maintaining optimal health.

Poor Posture Contributes to Health Issues

Research has shown poor posture can contribute to various physical health issues such as:

  • Musculoskeletal pain (e.g., neck pain, back pain)
  • Poor alignment of the spine
  • Joint stress
  • Decreased lung capacity and reduced breathing efficiency
  • Digestive issues

Signs of Poor Posture in Children (and adults too!)

Parents and health practitioners should be mindful of potential signs of inferior posture when evaluating a kid’s stance, even though such indications may not always be simple to identify. These include:

  • Slouching or hunching over while using a device
  • Forward head position (head jutting forward)
  • Rounded shoulders
  • Crossed legs while sitting for extended periods
  • Tilting the head to one side when looking at a screen
Screen Time Overload: How Excessive Screentime Use by Children is Causing Postural Stress

Other general signs may be: 

  • Musculoskeletal problems: Prolonged periods spent in poor postures can lead to muscle imbalances that increase tension around joints resulting in chronic pain conditions such as tension headaches or backaches (source).
  • Spinal issues: Poor posture can cause spinal misalignments, which may lead to conditions like scoliosis or kyphosis if left unaddressed (source).
  • Breathing difficulties: Rounded shoulders and a forward head position can restrict the diaphragm’s movement, leading to shallow breathing and reduced oxygen intake.
  • Digestive problems: Slouching while using mobile devices can compress internal organs, potentially causing digestive issues such as acid reflux or constipation.

If you notice any of these signs in your child, they may be experiencing postural stress due to excessive screen time.

The Holistic Dentists’ Perspective on Postural Stress

Excessive use of digital devices and the resulting postural stress in children can also have dental and oral health implications too.

Holistic dentistry looks beyond just the teeth and gums to consider how oral health is related to overall body health. 

When it comes to excessive screen time, there are several ways this issue can impact the oral health of children.

  1. Postural stress and Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Disorders: The forward head posture often associated with device use can put undue stress on the neck muscles and temporomandibular joints (TMJ), leading to TMD. Symptoms of TMD can include headaches, jaw pain, and difficulty chewing. It can also lead to teeth grinding (bruxism), which over time can wear down teeth and potentially lead to other problems like cavities and tooth loss.
  2. Oral Breathing and Malocclusion: When children hunch over screens, they are more likely to breathe through their mouths instead of their noses, which can have significant impacts on oral and overall health. Persistent mouth breathing can lead to changes in the oral cavity and facial structure, including alterations in the position of the teeth (malocclusion), and abnormal facial growth.
  3. Reduced Salivary Flow: Intense concentration on screens can also lead to a dry mouth due to reduced salivary flow. Saliva plays a vital role in maintaining oral health by washing away food particles, neutralising acids produced by bacteria, and providing disease-fighting substances throughout the mouth.
  4. Neglect of Oral Hygiene and Unhealthy Snacking: Excessive screen time can potentially lead to neglect of oral hygiene routines and increased consumption of sugary snacks and drinks, both of which can lead to cavities and gum disease.
  5. Psychological stress: Overusing digital devices can lead to psychological stress in children, which may manifest in behaviours such as teeth grinding and nail-biting, which can damage the teeth and gums over time.

From a holistic dentistry perspective, reducing screen time, encouraging better posture, promoting nose-breathing, and encouraging regular physical activity have general health benefits and contribute significantly to better oral and dental health. 

At Sydney Holistic Dental Centre, we invite parents to discuss any health challenges their children may be experiencing. We can provide more information and appropriate treatments and suggestions to help you guide your children toward healthier habits.

How Excessive Screen Time Impacts Emotional & Mental Health

Beyond the physical and oral health effects, excessive screen time has also been linked to negative impacts on a child’s emotional health. Studies have shown that too much screen time can contribute to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Social isolation
  • Poor sleep quality
  • Reduced academic performance

Recognising the signs of postural stress caused by extended screen time is essential for parents to ensure physical and emotional health in children and adolescents, as well as develop strategies for improving posture during device use.

Recognising postural tension in kids who overuse screens is critical for comprehending the potential long-term effects of too much screen time. Recognising indications of overuse of screens is a must for safeguarding the health and welfare of your child.

Postural Stress Can Impact Children’s Development and Brain Function

Postural stress, especially from excessive screen time, can have multiple impacts on children’s development and brain function.

  1. Dopamine and Reward Systems: Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in how we feel pleasure. It’s a big part of our brain’s reward system. When children spend excessive time on digital devices, they often engage in activities such as playing video games or watching entertaining content that can cause a surge in dopamine release.

    Over time, this can lead to desensitisation, where the child requires more and more screen time to experience the same level of pleasure. This cycle can mimic addictive behavior, and some researchers suggest it may contribute to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other developmental and behavioral issues.
  2. Impact on Sleep: Excessive screen time, particularly before bedtime, can lead to poor sleep quality due to the blue light emitted by screens. This light can suppress the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles.

    Chronic sleep deprivation can impair brain function and cognitive development, and is linked to ADHD and other behavioral disorders.
  3. Impact on Social Skills: Children learn and develop critical social and emotional skills through face-to-face interactions. Excessive screen time can reduce the time spent on these direct interactions, leading to delays in social development.

    This can potentially affect their ability to understand and regulate emotions, with potential long-term implications for their mental and emotional health.
  4. Physical Activity and Brain Development: Physical activity has been shown to have a positive impact on brain development and function in children, including improved cognitive function, memory, and attention. By reducing the time for physical activity, excessive screen time can limit these benefits.

    It’s worth noting that children with poor posture and associated pain may also be less inclined to engage in physical activity, further reducing these opportunities for physical and cognitive development.
  5. Learning and Attention: Sitting for extended periods can lead to physical discomfort and restlessness, making it more difficult for children to focus and engage in learning. In addition, rapidly changing images, sounds, and other stimuli from digital media can lead to a reduced attention span and make it harder for children to focus on less stimulating tasks, such as reading or listening to a teacher in a traditional classroom setting.
  6. Stress and Mental Health: Chronic postural stress can contribute to physical discomfort and pain, which may in turn lead to increased stress, anxiety, and depression. These mental health issues can have significant effects on brain function and cognitive development.
Screen Time Overload: How Excessive Screentime Use by Children is Causing Postural Stress

Excessive screen time can cause various physical, mental and oral health issues in children, including headaches, blurry eyes, foggy brain, eye strain, dry mouth and poor breathing, sleep issues, tantrums, and delayed emotional development and problem-solving skills.

Mobile Devices Impact Our Posture

The increased presence of mobile devices in our lives has increased concern about their potential effects on posture, especially among youngsters who are using them for prolonged periods. We must explore ways to reduce time spent on screens and mitigate negative effects.

The Connection Between Mobile Device Usage and Poor Posture

When using mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, users often adopt a forward head posture (FHP) where the head is tilted down towards the screen while the shoulders are rounded forward. This position can place strain on the neck muscles and spine, leading to musculoskeletal imbalances. This can cause pain, discomfort, and long-term stress.

Children’s bodies are still developing; thus, they may be more susceptible to postural issues caused by excessive screen time than adults. As they grow up with poor habits like FHP from an early age due to increased exposure to screens at home or school settings (source), these habits may become ingrained over time unless proactive steps are taken for improvement.

The impact of mobile devices on posture are plain to see, and it is essential we grasp the implications in order to support kids in sustaining healthy postures.

What are the Symptoms of Too Much Screen Time?

With an abundance of digital devices at their disposal, children are vulnerable to the physical and mental health effects of too much screen time. Parents and experts should be mindful of the various indications that could point to overindulgence in digital devices. The following list outlines some common signs that your child might be experiencing issues related to excessive screen time:

  • Headaches: Prolonged use of screens can cause tension in the neck, shoulders, and head muscles, leading to frequent headaches.
  • Blurry eyes: Staring at a screen for extended periods without taking breaks can strain the eyes and result in blurry vision. This condition is known as computer vision syndrome.
  • Foggy brain: Excessive screen time has been linked to decreased cognitive function, making it difficult for children to concentrate or think clearly.
  • Eye strain: Constant exposure to screens causes eye fatigue due to reduced blinking rates and increased focusing demands.
  • Sleep issues: Overexposure to blue light emitted by screens disrupts the production of melatonin, affecting sleep patterns. Read more about how this affects children’s sleep from the Sleep Foundation.
  • Tantrums: Children who spend too much time on their devices may become irritable when asked to limit their usage, resulting in tantrums.
  • Emotional skills and emotional development: Excessive screen time can hinder social interactions, leading to delays in emotional development and social skills.
  • Weight: Sedentary behaviour associated with excessive screen time can contribute to weight gain and obesity, increasing the risk of related health issues.
  • Physical health: Poor posture, lack of physical activity, and repetitive stress injuries are some common physical problems that can arise from excessive screen time.

By recognising these symptoms early on, parents can take appropriate steps to address them. 

Solving the Excessive Screen Time Puzzle

Overall, it’s clear that while digital devices can be valuable tools for education and communication, excessive screen time and the associated postural stress can have significant impacts on children’s health, development and brain function. 

It’s important for parents, teachers, and healthcare providers to be aware of these issues and to take steps to manage screen time and promote good posture, physical activity, and face-to-face interaction. 

To ensure children’s long-term optimal health, a holistic health approach to equilibrium between digital activities and other vital aspects of their lives is important.

Talk to your dentist at SHDC for more information and how best to support your child’s oral health, general health and mental health.

FAQs – Excessive Screen Time and its Impact on Children’s Health

What is screen time overload?

Screen time overload refers to excessive screen time or prolonged periods of time spent in front of a screen, whether it be a tablet, computer, smartphone, or any other electronic device.

Can Too Much Screen Time Affect Your Kids’ Posture?

Yes, excessive time on screens can negatively impact a child’s posture. Prolonged use of mobile devices and computers can lead to poor habits such as slouching or hunching over.

How Does Screen Time Affect Your Posture?

Screen time affects posture by encouraging improper body alignment while using devices. Users tend to lean forward with their heads tilted down when looking at screens, causing strain on the neck and spine.

What Are the Effects of Prolonged Screen Time on Child Development?

Prolonged time focusing on screens impacts children’s physical health through postural stress as well as their mental well-being due to reduced social interaction opportunities. It also interferes with sleep patterns and increases the risk of obesity from sedentary behaviour.

Can Excessive Screen Time Lead to Physical Ailments Like Poor Posture or Headaches?

Yes, extended screen usage can contribute to various physical ailments such as poor posture caused by constant hunching over devices; tension headaches from eye strain; carpal tunnel syndrome due to repetitive motions; dry eyes from staring at screens without blinking frequently enough; and even obesity due to decreased exercise and activity levels.

How does excessive screen time affect posture?

Excessive screen time can cause postural stress, where the hunch forward that comes with staring at a screen can lead to neck and shoulder pain, headaches, and even affect the child’s development if not addressed properly.

What is blue light and how does it relate to screen time?

Blue light is a type of light that is emitted by electronic screens and has been linked to issues such as disrupted sleep patterns, as it can affect the brain’s production of melatonin. Limiting exposure to blue light can be important in reducing the negative impacts of excessive screen time.

What is the recommended amount of screen time per day for children?

While opinions vary, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children ages 2-5 should have no more than 1 hour of screen time per day, while children ages 6 and older should have a limit and balance their screen time with other activities such as physical exercise, socialising, and reading print media.

What is the relationship between screen time and physical activity?

Excessive screen use and a sedentary lifestyle can lead to a decrease in physical activity, which can ultimately lead to issues such as obesity and other health problems. It’s a good idea to encourage children to balance their screen time with activities that require movement and exercise.

What is computer vision syndrome?

Computer vision syndrome is a condition that can arise from spending too much time looking at a screen. Symptoms can include blurry vision, headaches, and eye strain. It’s important to take breaks from looking at screens and adjust the distance between the eyes and the screen to give the eyes a break and the ability to change focus.

Further reading and Resources for Understanding and Managing Excessive Screen Time in Children

  1. Physical Activity and Exercise Guidelines: The Department of Health provides comprehensive 24-hour movement guidelines suitable for all age groups. These guidelines can be a valuable resource for parents and caregivers looking to balance screen time with physical activity. Department of Health Website
  2. 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Young People: This report by the Department of Health provides detailed evidence supporting the 24-hour movement guidelines specifically designed for children (5–12 years) and young people (13–17 years). It integrates aspects of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Department of Health Report
  3. Impact of Digital Technology on Australian Children: The Gonski Institute of Education (UNSW) conducted research titled “Growing up Digital Australia” that provides an overview of the impact of digital technology on Australian children. Gonski Institute of Education Research
  4. Resources on Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour: The Department of Health offers a collection of brochures, fact sheets, and posters based on the 24-hour movement guidelines. These resources can be used to educate families and promote awareness about the importance of physical activity and the dangers of sedentary behaviour. Department of Health Resources
  5. Children’s Screen Time in Australia: This chapter from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children provides insights into the screen time habits of Australian children. Longitudinal Study of Australian Children
  6. Managing Screen Time: This webpage by provides practical strategies to help parents manage and reduce screen time for children aged 3–11 years. Raising Children Website
  7. Screen time and kids: What’s happening in our homes. Home-based screen time behaviors amongst youth and their parents: Familial typologies and their modifiable correlates. BMC Public Health