London, Feb 26 : Excessive use of phones and tablets is preventing children’s finger muscles from developing sufficiently, making it increasingly hard for them to hold pens and pencils, UK doctors say.
“Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago,” said Sally Payne, the head paediatric therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust in the UK.
“Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be able to hold it because they do not have the fundamental movement skills,” said Payne.
“To be able to grip a pencil and move it, you need strong control of the fine muscles in your fingers. Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills,” she said.
“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,” Payne was quoted as saying by the ‘Guardian’.
Mellissa Prunty, who runs a research clinic at Brunel University London investigating key skills in childhood, including handwriting, said that increasing numbers of children may be developing handwriting late because of an overuse of technology.
“One problem is that handwriting is very individual in how it develops in each child,” said Prunty.
“Without research, the risk is that we make too many assumptions about why a child 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 primary schools focus on handwriting in different ways – with some using tablets alongside pencils, Prunty said.
This becomes a problem when same the children also spend large periods of time on tablets outside school.