Schools should ban smartphones, says therapist association


Physical therapists in Flanders are against allowing students to use mobile devices during breaks between lessons, citing concerns about both physical and mental health

‘Tablet neck’

Schools in Flanders should ban the use of smartphones on the playground and during breaks between lessons, according to physical therapy professor Annick Timmermans of Hasselt University (UHasselt). The professional association representing physical therapists was quick to agree with Timmermans’ statements.

“I don’t understand why more and more schools are allowing the use of mobile phones during school hours,” Timmermans told Het Belang van Limburg. “It only leads to more sitting still and more neck and shoulder problems.”

The professional association Axxon supported the statements. “School breaks are meant for relaxing, and tapping on a smartphone is not relaxing,” said Axxon president Peter Bruynooghe. “If you are looking at something while bent over, your neck muscles are continuously working to prevent your head from falling forward, which is enormously strenuous.”

In the Netherlands, 40% of youngsters between the ages of eight and 18 suffer from a so-called “tablet neck” – back and neck muscle tension caused by using tablets and mobile phones. There are no statistics for Belgium, but the Belgian Association of Chiropractors are reporting problems here as well. It recommends using a phone or tablet no longer than 20 minutes at a time before changing position and moving around.

An actual ban, however, is no solution, according to Catholic education network spokesperson Willy Bombeek. “We mainly advise our schools to create policies,” around the use of digital devices, he said, “warn students when the use becomes excessive and encourage them to also move around during breaks.”

Photo: Ingimage