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10 July 2016

Study Shows Excessive Time Spent on iPads Can Affect Children's Muscle and Bone Development

Bailey Roberts, 4 and Abbey Templer, 5 with iPads.
Picture:  Hamish Blair
[More and more studies are revealing the harmful effects of wireless technology and excessive screentime on children.]

World-first study shows excessive time spent on iPads can affect kids muscle and bone development
by Claire Bickers, PerthNow, 2 July 2016

TOO much time spent on iPads and similar touchscreen devices could result in the muscles and bones of young children not developing properly, new research shows.

A Curtin University team in Western Australia, concerned by the increasing amount of time kids spend on portable devices, is behind a world-first study into how screen time impacts physical growth.

Physiotherapy professor Leon Straker said the study would track children over their first five years of life to see how device use affects their physical, mental and social development.

Early results from a laboratory study, with ten children aged three and four, found kids who used iPads moved their upper limbs and whole body less in a 15 minute period than when they played with toys, but more than when they watched TV.

The results showed children playing toys moved their upper limbs six times as much as when watching TV and three times as much as when using an iPad.

Children playing with toys also moved their whole body twice as much playing with toys as using an iPad and three times more than watching TV.

“We are concerned that the very enticing touch screen devices will lead to children’s muscles and bones not developing well for two reasons,” Prof Straker said.

“One, they may spend more time sitting rather than running around and playing and miss the stimulus this provides to build strong muscles and bones and two, they may spend more time in a poor neck posture with little neck movement which may make them more vulnerable to neck pain.

“The good news is that these devices can be used in a variety of postures so may be less problematic than TV.”

It comes after a recent HBF survey of 500 families found WA kids were spending nearly an entire day each week — 22 hours — staring at screens.

Official guidelines used by the Australian Department of Health recommend children under the age of two years see no screens at all, and children aged between five and 17 limit screen time to less than two hours a day.

Prof Straker recommended young children spend only short periods of time on touch tablets, about 15 minutes, and no more than an hour a day in total on all electronic 

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