With so many teens and younger kids receiving tech gadgets such as smartphones for the holidays, it’s important to set up rules for usage.
According to a recent report by Pew Internet and American Life Project, the volume of texting has risen from 38 percent of teens texting daily in 2008 to 54 percent texting every day in 2009. That number continues to rise. It is rare to find a teen without a cell phone in hand these days, as text messaging has become the primary way teens communicate. A recent survey found that text messaging has become the preferred form of daily communication for teens.Sixty-three percent of the teens surveyed said they prefer text messaging over phone calls, face to face interactions, emails, social network messaging, and instant messaging.Half of teens send 50 or more text messages a day. That’s 1,500 texts a month!
Our hands are truly incredible, but there are limits. Imagine all the movements of the thumbs and fingers during texting and then envision a musician playing an instrument and the kind of complex movements that musician requires of his or her hands. We tend to only notice our hands when using them is not so effortless. The small bones and tendons of the hand and wrist work together in a way not found in any other creature. Only humans have a thumb long enough and fingers nimble enough to accomplish tasks of varying difficulty and with our level of speed, accuracy, and strength.
Constant repetitive action, as with texting and playing electronic games, can cause injuries ranging from anonymous thumb pains, to what is called trigger thumbs, and other tendonitis of the fingers and wrist.While no large scientific study has identified texting as a health risk, there are a growing number of case reports and studies that identify technologically-associated cases of repetitive strain. These reports use terms like “texting thumbs,” “blackberry thumbs,” “nintendonitis.” These and other “injuries associated with the use of a Wii” may be causes of thumb pain and tendonitis of the hand and wrist.
If the trend for increased smartphone use and texting continues, could teen texters find themselves affected by the same conditions as their parents and grandparents, decades before the typical onset? The technology associated with texting is relatively new and we don’t know if there will be long-term effects. While texting-related injuries have yet to fully emerge, the theoretical risks are present.
With little known about the long-term effects of texting, parents may want to err on the side of caution. Prevention is the best medicine. Setting boundaries and rules for your teen’s smartphone usage may help. A good rule to start with is no texting during meals or family outings. Two rather obvious restrictions include: no texting while driving; and no texting during class or other instructional time. Taking regular breaks from actions such as texting and game playing can not only relieve symptoms and cure the condition, but can also prevent further problems. If your teen just won’t stop texting, advise him not to use the same hand to hold the phone, to stretch his fingers and hands throughout the day, and if thumbs or fingers do start to get sore, he should stop texting.
Since new innovations and technologies continue to emerge so rapidly and influence our mode of communication (the talk-to-text feature for example), the craze of texting and the potential health effects may be a moot point. Either way, the risk of repetitive motion injury should be considered if children are addicted to texting.