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This article by freelance journalist Richard Young explores the issue of children's posture and the impacts of poor posture on health. In gathering information for this article Richard spoke to Nicole Haynes from the Australian Physiotherapy Association and to PV's Gail McHardy. 

 

Having good posture is key for a child’s development. By initiating bad habits during childhood and adolescence, a multitude of long-term effects can occur later in life. One of the biggest challenges is living in a world that is dominated by the daily use of technology.

With over 28,000 members, the Australian Physiotherapy Association represents the physiotherapists and their patients in Australia. APA Paediatric chair - Nicole Haynes spoke about the amount of time children spent in front of screens “Children today live with an increasing amount of technology available. Technology is an essential part of everyday life and without a doubt, children today are spending more time in front of devices, which is for the most part sedentary (seated) behaviours.”

Naturally, the body wants to hunch over when using phones or tablets. Without the appropriate corrections, it is easy to develop bad postural habits during childhood.

According to Haynes “Bad postural habits or postures that can result in unwanted strain on the body. Discomfort and secondary musculoskeletal issues are often due to prolonged periods spent in a position. Spending too long in any position can result in discomfort.”

Haynes added “The health impacts of sedentary behaviour including that on the musculoskeletal system are significant and we need to counter these activities which result in sedentary behaviour and static postural positions.”

Symptoms of bad posture can include:

  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Ankle and knee pain
  • Headaches

Getting regular exercise like playing sports is way to maintain awareness of good posture. It gets the body moving and strengthens the core which is greatly beneficial for back discomfort.

Along with growing concerns of technology use, time spent doing physical activities is also a concern for children in Australia.

When speaking about how physically active Australian children are, Haynes said “There are also growing concerns in regard to the amount of physical play and physical activity Australian children are engaged in every day. The most recent Active Healthy Kids Australia Report Card indicates that the majority of children do not accumulate enough physical activity each day”

Coming Together

School life plays a major role in a child’s development. Seated for large parts of the day without regular movement breaks can cause discomfort in the neck, shoulders and back.

When speaking about the challenges of school, Haynes said “From my personal experiences of working with children across all ages it appears there are increasing demands on children in regards to homework and assignments which only adds to the amount of time spent sedentary in front of screens.”

The changes that are needed to raise awareness and introduce new methods must come from the community as whole including schools, homes, and local sports clubs.

Haynes added “The community including local organisations, local councils as well state and national governments play a role in promoting physical activity, providing opportunities and environments that promote healthy lifestyles as well as education regarding health literacy.”

Parents Victoria is a state-wide democratic organisation representing parents of students in Victorian government schools. They provide parents with a voice, presenting an organised parent perspective to State and Federal Governments, educational bureaucracies, institutions and community organisations.

Gail McHardy, Executive officer of Parents Victoria states “Teachers and sporting coaches are well placed to reinforce and influence students to have better posture.”

When speaking about reminding children of the importance of good posture McHardy said “Of course, students despise being embarrassed or called out in front of their peers, so we need to be mindful not to add further anxiety in how those posture corrections are delivered. Parents Victoria feels some parents already endeavour to educate their children at an early age but during adolescence it's hard to police all the time.”

While being successful within the home is important, it’s easy for a child to lose focus and simply stop caring if these habits are not included in schools and other local communities. “I Think we all have a role to play” McHardy added.

Keeping children reminded is key as well as keeping them physically active on a regular basis. It’s difficult enough having the challenges that school and technology use has to offer so having appropriate solutions in place will be fundamental for creating new habits.

Nicole Haynes states “To minimise the risk of long term consequences of sedentary behaviours and static posture on our children we need to ensure they are not sedentary for long periods at a time, ensure they are physically active including activities that cause them
to "huff and puff" as well as activities that strengthen their bones and muscles as well as working to keep screen time down.”

In terms of communities, each must realise the importance and introduce realistic methods. Gail McHardy said “It would be helpful if the relevant health professionals could raise awareness to families and schools how to educate and reinforce better practice with students when they are required to use technology devices for the majority of their learning”

In the recent changes due to covid-19, many students have been required to study from home. This will increase their use for technology devices like tablets and laptops. The changes caused by the pandemic will only add to the challenges of technology and inactivity “Especially During COVID19 restrictions when students are Learning from Home and many members of the household are spending many hours on computers and possibly not sitting or standing correctly when working or learning” Added McHardy.

Developing new habits to manage both postural awareness and screen time for children may be challenging but when the right practises are introduced it will prove to be essential.

When discussing the appropriate methods, McHardy said “Easy exercises and prevention strategies are always welcome. If these are recommended or referenced by the credentialled experts, then people will possibly take notice. Just like dental hygiene we all need to develop and practice good habits.”

Students tend to pay more attention when other students are onboard with raising the awareness of change. “Students themselves can be great leaders of change and if there was a campaign designed and led by students this would have an impact. Getting students involved in coming up with a slogan or social media campaign would be one way to have influence” added McHardy.

Daily Habits

In terms of putting of a child’s typical day, what habits can be done to ensure better posture?

Australian Physiotherapy Association provides public advice for children’s wellbeing throughout Australia. When asked what habits children should practise daily, Nicole Haynes listed some habits for managing a healthy posture.

  • Get active before school.
  • Take movement breaks - every 20-30mins depending on their age.
  • Mix it up. Try to use a variety of sedentary positions throughout the day - sitting, standing, kneeling, lying on your tummy, lying on your back, sitting on a ball.
  • "Huff and Puff" Aim to achieve at least 60mins of aerobic activity every day.
  • Get Strong. Do something that helps strengthen your bones and muscles 2 -3 times per week - climbing, pulling, jumping, lifting or structured exercise.
  • Active Lunch breaks - Be active during lunch breaks - even a walk around the school is better than just sitting and talking. Try a "walk and talk" instead.
  • Active Transport - Use active transport whenever possible - even if it means just getting dropped off a short distance from school.
  • Move at least a little. - If you're stuck at your desk try some small chair exercises like shoulder shrugs, neck stretches and trunk rotations.
  • Limit screen time - Keep a check on the amount of time you spend on screens.

Posture shapes the body. A healthy body emerges into a healthy mind. Both are developed through childhood and with the appropriate corrections, it can be easy to maintain.

Let us not allow the modern-day use of technology to have such an impact on our children’s health. Teach them to develop some good habits and encourage others to follow suit. Along with making the appropriate changes, leading by example will also be essential going forward into a healthier shaped future.

Richard Young is a freelance writer based in Melbourne. Originally from Ireland, he moved overseas in 2015 and began his writing journey.

Having experienced postural difficulties as a child, Richard understands the importance of having good posture, especially today as children live in a world with an overwhelming amount of technology use. 

 

The Raising Children website has published new resources on helping children and teenagers coping with face masks. 

Even though children under 12 are not required to wear masks, they might feel anxious or upset when they can’t see your face or the faces of other carers and familiar people. Teenagers might have mixed and varying feelings about face masks.

Here are links to the pages:

 

 

The Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority (VCAA) has a COVID-19 advice page on its website, but if you still have questions you can all the VCAA on their hotline:

1800 134 197


 

A message from Hon. James Merlino, Minister for Education, 2 August 2020:

Today we made the significant decision to go to Stage 4 restrictions in Melbourne and Stage 3 in regional Victoria. It’s a tough call but one that had to be made.

Based on the advice of Victorian and national health experts, we need to go further in our efforts to drive the Coronavirus numbers down.

So what does this mean for schools and early childhood?

On Monday, students and staff will continue as they have been.

Tuesday will be a pupil free day for schools.

From Wednesday in metropolitan Melbourne all students in p-12 will learn remotely. On-site supervision will be available for students of permitted workers, vulnerable students, and in some cases, students with disabilities.

From Thursday early childhood services in Melbourne will also only be open to families of defined workplaces where the child needs care and to vulnerable children.

In regional Victoria all students will learn remotely although our specialist schools will remain open for students. On-site supervision will be available for all students of permitted workers, vulnerable students and any student with a disability.

Early childhood services will also remain open as normal in regional Victoria.

I know this is challenging for everyone but it something we simply have to do. We have no choice if we want to slow the spread of the virus.

This is all about stopping around 1 million students, their families and teachers from moving around the state.

For VCE students my message is clear. You will sit your exams and you will receive an ATAR by the end of the year. I know it is challenging but we will support you every step of the way.

2020 is turning out to be a year that none us could even imagine.

But if we all stick together we will get through this.

Thank you to our amazing principals, teachers, and school and early childhood staff who continue to do an outstanding job in circumstances that are extremely difficult. I could not be prouder of the work you do.

 


 

31 July, 2020

Parents Victoria is very concerned by the increasing number of Covid-19 cases in the community and in our schools in particular. Although a small percentage of schools overall have had to be closed due to positive cases, the number compared with last lockdown have increased dramatically. Parents are understandably worried about the physical health of their children, where they are required to attend onsite. This is added to their concerns about their children’s mental wellbeing, impacted for some because they have to be at school, and others because they are required to Learn from Home (LFH) again.   There is no one answer which will suit everyone.

At this time, Parents Victoria calls on the State Government to review its decision to keep senior students learning onsite. We believe more flexibility must be provided to school principals to put arrangements in place to suit their local communities. These should include lessons and resources being available online again for senior students, who could then LFH if that were their preference, or could participate in remote learning onsite at their school, or in a nominated school within a local cluster. The cluster model could operate for all students who cannot LFH (medically vulnerable families, essential worker parents, etc.). The majority of teachers and staff should also be authorised to work from home. These options should be available to all students attending specialist schools, too.

We would suggest a decision is made for at least the remainder of Term 3, and that any such decision remains in place for the indicated period. Constantly changing decisions lead to more anxiety for families. A decision relating to Term 4 should be made as early as is practical. Communication to families from the Government/DET and schools must be timely, factual, and not contradictory.

Most critical is the health and wellbeing of students, their families, and all staff in our schools.

All enquiries regarding this release should be directed to Gail McHardy, Executive Officer: 0413 589 627 or via email.


 

 

The Herald-Sun reported today that, "An increased number of locked-down Melbourne students are attending school in person compared to the city’s first wave of coronavirus, despite current cases eclipsing those recorded in Term 2."

The article says that up to 5% of Prep-Year 10 students are attending school in person in Term 3, compared to only 3% in the Term 2 lockdown.

 

In May 2018, the Minister for Education released a new plan: Transforming Career Education in Victorian Government Schools, which outlines the Government’s investment in a suite of career education reform initiatives to redesign career education, to help government school students make better career and pathway decisions, and to meet the demands of a rapidly changing globalised job market.

Some of the key initiatives that government schools now have access to include:

  • My Career Exploration: Teaching and learning resources to ensure students in Years 7 and 8 have the opportunity to explore their strengths, interests, values and the world of work. This includes industry immersion activities both in person, and now in an online format, in response to COVID-19.
  • My Career Insights: A careers advisory service which provides all Year 9 students with access to an online career diagnostic assessment (the Morrisby Tool) followed by a one-on-one career counselling session.
  • My Career Portfolio: An online resource designed to support all students in Years 7 to 12 to develop a Career Action Plan, store files related to their course and career planning, and access links to information to support course and career exploration.

Throughout the disruptions caused by COVID-19 during Term 2, most of the career education reform initiatives were able to continue to be delivered. In particular, the My Career Insights and My Career Portfolio initiatives were both continued to be delivered online as students moved to remote and flexible learning.

Most of the career education reform initiatives will continue to be delivered in Term 3 as well, despite the restrictions caused by COVID-19 this term and the return to remote and flexible learning for some students from 20 July through to 19 August in Melbourne and in the Mitchell Shire.

 

Careers practitioners develop and manage the school’s career education program and ensure that it meets the needs of all students. The role of a careers practitioner may vary from school to school; many careers practitioners are teachers who may also teach other classes.

In general, careers practitioners provide the following services:

For Years 7 -12

  • deliver career education classes
  • support and guide students with their subject, course and career decision-making and help with their transitions from year to year;
  • support students’ career planning through Career Action Plans from Year 7 -12 by ensuring they have access to a careers e-portfolio eg My Career Portfolio;
  • skill up students to research careers and course information;
  • careers counselling (individual as well as group counselling);
  • promote career expos and tertiary institutions’ Open Days;
  • organise guest speakers to talk to students about careers and pathways;
  • assist students in sourcing jobs by teaching job search strategies including writing letters of application, resumes and interview skills;
  • coordinate and manage placements for work experience, Structured Workplace Learning, volunteering and School Based Apprenticeships and Traineeships (from Years 9 – 12);
  • provide current, unbiased and relevant course and careers information, as well as labour market data;
  • ensure students have a destination/pathway when they leave school

For Years 7-9

  • ensure students in years 7 and 8 have the opportunity to explore their strengths, interests and values and the world of work eg My Career Exploration;
  • ensure all Year 9 students have access to My Career Insights (a careers advisory service that includes the Morrisby tool);
  • provide opportunities for students to be exposed to the world of work eg workplace visits and Taster programs

For Year 12 students

  • provide assistance and careers counselling to Year 12 students in August /September with their VTAC applications and Special Entry Access Scheme (SEAS) applications http://www.vtac.edu.au/who/seas.html for tertiary courses; in December each year when the ATARs are released; and during the ‘Change of Preference Period’;
  • encourage Year 12 students to access relevant information in relation to their tertiary course applications eg UCAT for medicine and dentistry courses, scholarships etc;
  • promote career expos and tertiary institutions’ Open Days;

For parents

  • meet with parents/carers to discuss their children’s subject, course and career choices and their pathway options;
  • run career information sessions for parents/carers;

  • provide current, unbiased and relevant course and careers information, as well as labour market data

For staff

  • provide information on student outcomes eg student destinations and transitions;
  • work with classroom teachers to deliver career education in their classes;
  • work with school staff to prepare subject selection guides for Years 7-12;
  • encourage and involve staff in career activities to build a whole school approach to career education.

 

The Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC) has launched new online guides for senior secondary students:

 

The Education Department has advice for parents about remote learning for their children in 25 languages. 

You can dowload an advice sheet that covers setting up a learning environment, student responsibilities, mental health and wellbeing, and many other topics.

(And if you can't read Arabic, Dinka, Hindi or Vietnamese, the heading reads, "Learning from home: information for parents and carers".)


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