Every morning, on the school run, you’ll see children staggering in, weighted down by the heavy bags they feel they need to carry – a week’s books, sports kit, snacks… it all adds up. The problem is that the sanctions that come with forgetting sports kit or books is worse, in a child’s mind, than the possibility, long hence, of back pain. Yet they could be setting themselves up for some serious issues – as an osteopath I, sadly, see a lot of children.
But there’s things that parents and teachers could do, which help take those damaging decisions out of the childrens’ hands:
1) Get them to use a backpack – and use both shoulder straps. Using both shoulder straps might be less cool – might make them look like a language tourist – but it keeps the back straighter and so stronger.
2) See if the school can use ergonomic chairs. Not the cheap option obviously, and may need to be restricted to ICT or computer studies classes. But it will help.
3) Don’t let children sit on the floor, or use bean bags, to work or play on a laptop or games console. Make sure they use a chair. They won’t thank you for it at the time, but maybe they will later…
4) Make sure that when children are using a PC, they mimic the workplace and create for themselves a decent workstation. Good desk, good chair (ideally a proper office chair), and a computer screen set at eye level.
5) Consider only letting them use a desktop PC, in fact. A laptop tends to encourage poor posture – but if a laptop is the only real option, make sure they sit correctly. Straight back and all that …
6) Don’t allow them to slob about in front of the TV, especially after a long session in front of a PC. Get them outside, get them doing sport, get them active.
7) If they develop back or neck pain – get them to a doctor, an osteopath or a chiropractor. These are tender years in a child’s physical development. Don’t let things drift.