Text neck

text neckNew research suggests that smart phone use is seriously damaging our necks. Looking down at an angle places great strain on the spine, and can result in serious harm. In this activity students learn about the forces acting on the spine. They then devise a plan to investigate the causes of text neck, before solving a dilemma: will they use their phone less to prevent neck damage?

Learning objective

In this lesson students will make a decision about whether to use their phone less to prevent neck damage using:

  • Forces: identify forces on objects
  • Ask and define: define a problem and devise a plan to investigate it

Try the activity

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Curriculum link

England National Curriculum KS3:

  • Working Scientifically:  Experimental skills and investigations: select, plan and carry out the most appropriate types of scientific enquiries to test predictions, including identifying variables.
  • Physics: Forces: Using force arrows in diagrams, balanced and unbalanced forces.

GCSE Combined Science subject content:

  • Working Scientifically: Experimental skills and strategies: plan experiments or devise procedures to make observations, produce or characterise a substance, test hypotheses, check data or explore phenomena.
  • Physics: Forces: use vector diagrams to illustrate resolution of forces.

Running the activity

Starter New research shows that using your phone may seriously damage your neck. Will you use your phone less to save your neck?
Main Explain why the force on the top of your spine depends on neck angle. Plan how to investigate whether using your phone damages your neck.
Plenary Students make a final decision on the dilemma question.

For detailed running notes, download the teachers guide.

Please note that the resources were updated on 14/05/2015.


Text neck – how smartphones are damaging our spines

A newspaper article describing the research

Have YOU got text neck?

A second newspaper article describing the research

Scientific research

The scientific paper in Surgical Technology International

Forces in muscles and joints

Forces acting on the neck (see figure 8)

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  • mromero says:

    Text neck

    Very well connected to students’ interests and providing interesting opportunities to make informed arguments

  • ariesrach says:

    Text necking great for forces and levers topic

    I used this to show students a real life example in forces and levers. They engaged well and it was good to download an app to measure the angle of their necks.

  • roxigeo says:

    text neck

    Completeaza foarte bine folosirea in excces a telefonuli mobil.

  • LPleszko says:

    Text Neck

    I used this to recap and extend a year 8 classes knoweldge of Year 7 Forces. Students were more enthused and had to ‘think harder’ as they were applying knowledge to a new concept. Excellent resource, would highly recommend.

  • mmms says:

    Text neck

    Lovely task for engaging students and making science real

  • fugazinz says:

    Text neck

    Engaging content but probably too hard science for the age group suggested

  • science says:


    An impressive resource – easy to follow and engaging, and impressed by my students’ ideas for investigating the issue.

  • angusg says:

    Caught their imagination

    Anything to do with phones appeals! Led them to some careful investigation – several groups restarted to get better data. One group extended it by hanging weight from the end of cardboard tube at various angles and found it collapsed at an angle less than their phoning/texting neck angle. A lot more upright posture (for a few days!).

    • Philippa says:

      Thank you!

      Thank you Angusg for commenting – great that this led to some careful investigation. Philippa, from the writing team.

  • cadunster says:

    “Get out your phones”

    An unusual instruction in my school! Immediately grabs the students’ attention. They were surprised to be doing science that actually was about them.

    • Philippa says:

      Thank you

      Thanks, Cadunster, for commenting. I’m glad the students enjoyed doing some science that was about them! Philippa, for the writing team.