Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say

Children need opportunities to develop hand strength and dexterity needed to hold pencils

Children are increasingly discovering it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive employ of technology, senior paediatric doctors have warned.

An overuse of touchscreen telephones and tablets is preventing children’s thumb muscles from developing sufficiently to enable them to hold a pencil correctly, they say.

” Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago ,” said Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust.” Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental motion skills.

” To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your thumbs,. Children require lots of opportunity to develop those abilities .”

pencil graphic

Payne said the nature of play had changed.” It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes. Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation abilities they need to grip and hold a pencil .”

Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly conferences with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.

His mother, Laura, blames herself:” In retrospect, I see that I dedicated Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the traditionally bred playthings. When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns: he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He merely couldn’t hold it in any other route and so couldn’t learn to write because he couldn’t move the pencil with any accuracy.

” The therapy conferences are helping a lot and I’m really strict now at home with his access to technology ,” she said.” I guess the school catch the problem early enough for no lasting damage to have been done .”

Mellissa Prunty, a paediatric occupational therapist who specialises in handwriting difficulties in children, is concerned that increasing numbers of children may be developing handwriting late because of an overuse of technology.

” One problem is that handwriting is very someone in how it develops in each child ,” said Prunty, the vice-chair of the National Handwriting Association who runs a research clinic at Brunel University London investigating key abilities in childhood, including handwriting.

” Without research, the risk is that we build too many premises about why small children isn’t able to write at the expected age and don’t intervene when there is a technology-related cause ,” she said.

Although the early years curriculum has handwriting targets for every year, different elementary school focus on handwriting in different ways- with some employing tablets alongside pencils, Prunty said. This becomes a problem when same the children also expend large periods of day on tablets outside school.

But Barbie Clarke, a child psychotherapist and founder of the Family Kids and Youth research agency, said even nursery schools were acutely aware of the problem that she said stemmed from excessive utilize to new technologies at home.

” We go into a lot of colleges and have never gone into one, even one which has espoused teaching through technology, which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads ,” she said.” Even the nurseries we go into which use technology recognise it should not all be about that .”

Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, also acknowledged fears.” It is undeniable that technology has changed the world where most children are growing up ,” she said.” Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use to new technologies, there is growing proof on potential impacts of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction, as children spend more time indoors online and less period physically participating in active occupations .”

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