As smartphones and other handheld devices are becoming more affordable, doctors say children who spend long hours playing video games are increasingly showing signs of postural deformities. Physical therapists warn that long-term consequences may be severe.
Owaish Batliwala, 10, from Mumbai, India, admitted spending three to four hours each day playing games on his tablet computer. When he started complaining about a neck pain, his mother Mehzabin became concerned.
“My son got a problem in his neck around June, July. The pain gradually spread to his hand and his back, this was the problem,” she explained. “He plays for hours on the iPad and mobile phone. He plays regularly for at least for two-three hours, that's what caused the problem.”
Physical therapist Sadia Vanjara said the number of young children with chronic pain in upper extremities is on the rise.
“They are not ageing, they haven't had an accident, their age is like, under 10, they are not complaining, the blood reports are fine, their X-rays are fine, their MRI's are fine, then where is the culprit? And that is the very common thing that is happening amongst all children and that is smart phones and the gadgets,” Vanjara said.
There are more smartphone users in India than anywhere else in the world, except for China. Networking technology giant Cisco estimates their numbers will increase from 140 million today to 651 million by the end of the decade.
Student Nida Jameel, 19, said she felt pain in her pinkie finger, where the weight of her smartphone rests most of the day.
“As I use phone 24/7 like, so probably yeah, it was because of the phone, continuous usage and Snapchat, Whatsapp, more and more you know social media coming, so like phone is the center of everything,” she said.
Vanjara said the best remedies for already-existing pain are daily exercises.
With correct posture, pain can be prevented, so Vanjara also teaches children how to hold their gadgets correctly.
“If you hold the phone up in front of you, your head will not be bent down to look at it and so your neck won’t get strained,” she said.
With the number of smartphones and other handheld devices constantly on the rise, Vanjara predicts we will see not only physical but also psychological and emotional ailments stemming from their excessive use.