Too Much Tech as a Tot: Study Finds Kids Struggle to Hold Pencils Because of Frequent Screen Time

posted: 03/08/18
by: Amanda Mushro
Happy baby spending time with mummy

Parenting in the digital age often means our toddlers spend some serious time on our devices. While we may be impressed by their ability to navigate apps and educational games, scientist are concerned that too much screen time leads to kids that struggle to hold a pencil.

According to a new study conducted by the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, because young children often overuse touchscreen phones and tablets, holding a pencil is difficult for these kids because their finger muscles have not developed correctly. So even if your kids know all of their letters, numbers and shapes before they start school, actually using a pencil to demonstrate that knowledge is getting harder for some tech savy kids.

"Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago," said Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist on the study. "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 movement skills." So while you may have downloaded plenty of educational games for your children, too much time on a tablet or phone could be hurting your child's development.

For young children, being able to move a pencil or crayon means they need to fine tune muscles in their fingers, wrists, and shoulders. One of the ways to do this is coloring, scribbling, and writing. If kids are simply using one finger to play games on their devices, those muscles won't develop correctly.

When these kids start school, handwriting more difficult for them. Since early education has increased writing and reading for young kids, often these students find themselves more frustrated and tired while writing than their peers.

So what can parents do besides kick their kid's technology habit? According to Payne, it's not all about just having our kids write or color. "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," she noted. So all kids needs some tech free time to get those tiny hands moving and grooving and not just swiping on a device.

But before you send yourself into a panic and ban your child from any form of technology, remember it's all about balance. Your kids can have time on their devices but also need plenty of tech free time too. It's a good reminder for everyone in the family to break away from technology and stretch our muscles.