WAC Magazine

MAY | 2014

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Page 26 of 63

MAY 2014 | Washington Athletic Club Magazine | 27 " What to do: Dr. Sherilyn Driscoll, a doctor of pediatric physical medicine and rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic Children's Center, recommends parents be conscious of ergonomics when kids are at their computers: It should be on a desk with the keyboard at hand level, there should be a supportive backrest, and kids should try to maintain an upright position. THEY'RE LESS ACTIVE Research has linked childhood obesity to too much screen time. In a recent study, 61 percent of obese boys and 63 percent of obese girls reported watching television for two or more hours each day. Studies have also suggested that TV viewing habits in childhood can predict obesity risk in adulthood. What to do: According to government guidelines, kids and teens should get at least one hour of moderate to vigorous physical activity at least three times a week to increase strength and develop strong muscles. FINGER AND WRIST PROBLEMS Finger and wrist pain is common in kids who play video games. A study (done by a kid!) found that children were 50 percent more likely to experience pain for every hour they spent gaming. Dr. Eric Ruderman, an associate professor at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, says video game playing may be harmful for children's developing muscles and tendons. Too much texting also can lead to soreness and cramping in the fingers, known as "text claw." What to do: Ruderman says parents need to limit game time: Two hours per day is too much. VISION PROBLEMS Teens' constant use of electronics at home and at school is taking a toll on their eyes, according to David Epley, a pediatric ophthalmologist in Kirkland and a spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Whenever someone spends time in front of a screen, their "blink rate" goes down, which can lead to dry itchy eyes and eye strain. Damage can develop through time and even cause nearsightedness. What to do: e American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that a computer user shift focus away from a screen every 20 minutes and take 20 seconds to look at something that is at least 20 feet away. "is gets you blinking again," Epley says. DISRUPTED SLEEP According to a 2010 Pew Study, four out of five teenagers sleep with their cell phones on or near their beds. ey're not just using phones as alarms. Another study found that teens send an average of 34 texts a night after getting into bed. Teens' sleep can be disrupted by screens because the bright lights that glow from the devices "wakes up the brain," says Michael Decker, a sleep specialist and associate professor at Case Western School of Nursing. e light can confuse the brain because our circadian pacemaker does not differentiate between the sun and a computer screen. "Teens are getting this bright light and it's making them go to bed later and want to sleep later," Decker says. Not getting enough sleep has a psychological effect on teens and can lead to irritability and poor social skills. Memory is also negatively affected, which in turn can diminish academic performance. What to do: e National Sleep Foundation recommends that teenagers get 9.25 hours of sleep each night (although for some kids, 8.5 hours is enough). Dr. Suzanne Phillips suggests discussing a nighttime plan with your kids, including the option of requiring them to charge their phone in another room overnight. Although experts on both sides of the issue have strong opinions, most agree that moderation is key. As a parent, one must look at one's own screen habits and remember that the kids are watching. "Kids do not need our undivided attention all day long, but they do in those real-life moments of talking and reading and doing the hard work of parenting—dealing with meltdowns, teaching them how to pick up their clothes," says Catherine Steiner-Adair, author of e Big Disconnect: Protecting Childhood and Family Relationships in the Digital Age. So, moms and dads, it's time to walk away from the computer, put the phone down, and enjoy your kids face to face. Jessica Samakow and Lori Leibovich write for The Huffington Post. A version of this copyright article first appeared in The Huffington Post. Reprinted with permission. Contact Samakow and Leibovich at jessica. samakow@huffingtonpost.com and lori@huffingtonpost.com. According to a 2010 Pew Study, four out of five teenagers sleep with their cell phones on or near their beds. … Another study found that teens send an average of 34 texts a night after getting into bed.

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