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Does Your Kid Have ‘Tech Neck’?

Teenage looking at cellphone and playing with her hairTeenage looking at cellphone and playing with her hair

This piece originally appeared on BlackEnterprise.

“Tech neck” or abnormal spine development in children is on the rise due to the amount of time they spend hunched over mobile devices, according to some researchers.

“Essentially, it’s like growing bonsai trees: bone responds in the same way as wood,” said Dr. Piet van Loon, an orthopedic surgeon who co-authored a study on the subject. “If you force it in a certain direction over a prolonged period, that’s how it ends up growing.”

Now, a new gadget has launched on Kickstarter to help put an end to “Tech Neck” also called “Gameboydisease.” The EyeForcer looks like a pair of glasses and prevents children from hunching over devices, which over time can cause this abnormal spine development.

The glasses, which connects to tablets or smartphones using an Android app, forces children to keep their necks in proper posture in order to play their games. As soon as users start to slouch, a warning message pops up on their screens. If a child receives more than five warnings, his or her program shuts down.

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The EyeForcer is a product from Medical Wearable Solutions. “Gameboy disease is a serious condition,” says Dr. Vahid Sahiholnasab, one of Medical Wearable Solutions’ founders. “As kids continue to bend their necks over devices, they are going to experience permanent damage.”

Symptoms can include poor posture, neck pain, back pain, headaches, and vision problems. If left untreated, Tech Neck can lead to obesity, depression, and spinal disc herniation. This condition affects adults, but is more dangerous for children. It can cause disability in early adulthood and later life and put significant pressure on healthcare systems.

However, physical problems associated with the use of technology are a problem for both children and adults. Spas are incorporating new services to address pain caused by device use. In the Catskills, the Mohonk Mountain House Spa offers the “Tension Tamer” massage for special care of shoulders and necks due to “increased hours online.” Sloco Massage and Wellness Spa offers a massage for those suffering from Carpal Tunnel syndrome from long hours of keyboard typing.