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Remote Learning: 5 Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Posture

Feb 09, 2021
Child sitting in office chair typing on a laptop

This school year has faced much uncertainty, with many families and children switching from traditional in-person to hybrid and in some cases full remote learning models. Many students are finding themselves learning in virtual classrooms for the first time. Although remote learning may have some perceived perks like sleeping in, self-paced learning and days off, it also comes with new challenges.

Younger children generally have built-in play and movement time during their day including recess and physical education classes while older students are switching classes every 50-90 minutes as well as participating in gym, weightlifting classes, and sports. With significantly more time spent at home this past year, along with online learning modules, screen time for most children and adolescents has increased substantially.

While attention to posture is probably not the first thing on your child’s mind, it is important to prevent pain and over-use injuries associated with prolonged, repetitive work at a computer. Getting a handle on posture early can strengthen muscles and promote good postural habits moving forward into adulthood. Here are the top five tips for keeping a healthy posture during remote learning:

Keep the Head Up and Shoulders Down

Looking down at a computer, tablet or phone for an extended period of time can result in a forward head position and rounded shoulders, which tend to worsen postural problems. One corrective technique is for your child to pretend there is a string pulling the top of their head towards the ceiling. As it pulls up, they should gently tuck their chin towards their neck, almost like they are making a double chin.

Another technique is for your child to shrug their shoulders towards their ears, then gently squeeze them backwards together. From there, they should move their shoulder blades down and together, squeezing gently.

Designate a School Space

It can be tempting to stay in bed all day or on the couch while doing schoolwork. Unfortunately, that can cause slouching or sitting sideways, which is bad for posture and can lead to pain and injury. If possible, a child should sit at a desk or table when doing school activities.

The table should be tall enough so that the top of the screen is at eye level. A lower screen means constantly looking down, which promotes the forward head and rounded shoulder position. The mouse should be at the same level as the keyboard and if using a laptop, consider getting a wireless mouse. Consider a book stand or other method of propping books and paper resources next to the computer.

Use a Good Chair

When sitting at a desk or table, the type of chair used also impacts posture. A chair with a straight back is better than a stool or backless chair as it offers support and helps with sitting up nice and tall. Your child should be able to comfortably rest their feet on the floor and their forearms and hands on the table.

Cushions or pillows can be used as needed, as long as your child can still sit up straight. If your child’s feet don’t touch the floor, consider putting a stool or box under their feet to prevent them from sliding forward and slumping.

Get Up and Move

One of the worst parts of remote learning is being glued to a chair all day. The best thing a child can do for their body and posture during this time is to get up and move! We recommend moving for five minutes every hour. Try going for a mini walk around the house or do some jumping jacks.

If your child has a hard time remembering, set an alarm on a phone or a timer to go off every hour. Consider a longer period of activity at the end of the day before playing video games, computer games or watching TV.

Cool down after workout chart

Stretch Those Muscles

When we are in the same position for a long time, muscles can get tight and sore. The best way to keep them loose and ready for the next day of school is to stretch! This can apply to the neck, chest, wrist, hip, and back muscles. Your child can stretch during those five-minute breaks or do it at the end of the day.

Is your child complaining about headaches or their eyes being tired? Are they stating that their neck or back is sore or aching? Do they have a hard time sitting up straight or have pain when not sitting in a supportive chair? Do they have new wrist, shoulder or forearm pain without known injury? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, consider that all of these complaints can be consequences of poor posture.

The good news is that, with practice, posture problems can be corrected. The best news is that these tips and stretches are helpful for everyone and can be done as a family. Encourage movement throughout the day and follow the tips above. If pain persists, make an appointment with your primary care physician.

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Breanne L. Bowers, PT, DPT, CHT, CFST
Sports and Orthopedic Physical Therapy

Breanne Bowers, PT, DPT, CHT, CFST, has been a physical therapist since 2012 and became a board-certified hand and upper extremity therapist (CHT) in 2017. Her background is in general orthopedic and sports physical therapy with adults and adolescents with elective studies, mission trips and clinical experiences in pediatrics.

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Clinical Therapies

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700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.