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"Screen slouch" to blame for children's bad posture

More and more young people in Finland are developing "text neck" as a result of spending so much time in a slumped position. Experts say that if a person’s posture is compromised, many other health problems can follow.

Tet-nuoret kuvituskuvassa, esimerkki huonosta ryhdistä.
Image: Riika Raitio / Yle

A lack of sufficient physical activity is apparent in young people’s posture in Finland. For instance, a Finnish Schools on the Move programme recently found a third of school-aged children cannot rise to sit up straight with their legs extended in front of them, or stand up from a crouching position.

Schools on the Move physiotherapist Kirsti Siekkinen says posture problems among Finnish youth are familiar – she says a look at the situation on the streets can confirm this. More young people have a hump in their back of the kind that used to be associated with older women that did lots of handicrafts.

"The hump is the result of long-term slumping with the head down. The human gaze is by nature always drawn to the horizon. So when the shoulders drop forward, the chin must compensate: this results in a neck hump," she says.

Problems kick in at a younger age

Siekkinen suggests that incidents of text neck will only grow and the age when these problems set in will fall. The study finds that primary schools students are already complaining of neck and back pain.

"In the past, ailments like this weren’t common until people reached middle age," Siekkinen says.

She says the trend will likely have harmful effects. Sitting in a slumped position means torso muscles atrophy and many other areas of the body are tense. This can result in premature degenerative changes. 

"Mental anguish is also evident in people’s posture. That’s why it’s important to exercise and be active, to stay joyful and proud of your body – to take care of it," she says.

Irreversible erosion

Marja Putkisto is a Finnish Pilates expert who developed the Putkisto Method in the early 90s in London. She too is concerned about Finnish posture, as she says most Finns don’t make the connection between posture and overall health.

"Posture communicates your approach to life and your attitude. It is your calling card because it is always on display," she says.

She agrees that a sedentary life is responsible for poor posture, and blames the ubiquitous screens that everyone spends their time staring at. Putkisto says real improvements can only be made when people make a long-term commitment to their bodies.

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