Experts explain how to protect your child from “tech neck,” a condition caused by bent necks and slumped shoulders during screen time.

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Your kid’s on the couch, engrossed in their tablet, with their head bowed down at an L-shaped angle. Even before the pandemic, kids spent about 33 hours on screens at home each week, found a study that surveyed more than 1,400 parents. This hands-down, head-down position is unnatural.

“Postural habits learned in childhood can last a lifetime,” says Turner Osler, M.D., a trauma surgeon and cofounder of QOR360, a company that helps people, especially kids, sit better and move more.

Here’s how he gets kids to straighten up.

1. Start the Day by Stretching.

Take five minutes to practice long, deep yoga moves like Downward Dog and Warrior. Think of stretching the whole spine, not just the neck, with slow rotations. Make a game of it by having your kid “draw” circles with their nose on the wall while standing or on the ceiling above them while lying down.

2. Adjust Their Position.

When your kid is playing on a phone or a tablet, encourage them to bring the device to their face, not their face to the device. Demonstrate how to brace their elbows against their ribs for better support. If they’re sitting at a desk, keep the keyboard at elbow height, the top of the monitor at eye level, and their feet flat on the floor. (Just know that changing instinctive postures developed over years can take time and patience.)

3. Practice Proper Sitting.

Most chairs aren’t at the right height for kids, so see if you can raise the seat to the height of your kid’s kneecap. This will allow the small of their back to assume its natural position. You can also show how to sit on the front edge of a chair to allow your shoulders to relax.

This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's September 2020 issue as “How to Prevent 'Tech Neck'.” Want more from the magazine? Sign up for a monthly print subscription here

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