If you’re a parent, it probably never crossed your mind that the excessive use of smartphones and iPads could be taking its toll on your children’s ability to hold a pen properly – but researchers recently found a surprising link between the use of touchscreen gadgets and poor dexterity in kids. Maybe it’s time to start giving your children real toys to play with and limit the time they spend using touchscreen devices.
Touchscreen Devices Affecting Handwriting
Who knew that the use of touchscreen devices could have such a detrimental effect on children’s health and cognition? A recent report by child specialists claims that children who spend too much time fiddling with smartphones or iPads have a much harder time holding a pen compared to other kids.
Several pediatricians, writing experts, and psychiatrists banded together to reach the conclusion that even though smartphone usage may make teenagers more adept at swiping and typing on a virtual keypad at the speed of lightening, the agility doesn’t translate in their ability to write with a real pencil or pen.
The warning was issued by experts who claim that tapping and swiping on the screen is simply making youngsters lose hand strength and dexterity, both of which are crucial for good handwriting. Moreover, the replacement of tradition pen-paper method by digital screens in classroom for skills such as writing, painting, and drawing is preventing children from developing hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills.
Pediatric therapist Sally Payne said in an interview with The Guardian that more and more school students are struggling with the fundamental movement skills using a pen which is affecting their performance in classrooms.
Growing Use of Smart Technology in Children
Children need plenty of opportunities to practice handwriting, and it is up to the parents to help them develop the necessary skills and fine muscles in fingers to grip the pencil and move it fluently. The practice of traditional writing is becoming increasingly obsolete as more and more children are being exposed to smart gadgets from a very early age.
A recent survey showed that almost 60 per cent of the children below the age of 2 could expertly use a smartphone or tablet whereas smart technology like digital cameras, touch-screen computers and other cool gadgets are being introduced in the nurseries to give small children an early exposure.
The Early Years Foundation Stage is a huge proponent of familiarizing young children with the range of amazing technology which can be used as a learning tool in homes and schools. However, the National Handwriting Association points out the dangers of replacing traditional motor activities with virtual screens and warns about the effects of excessive use of smart technology on handwriting.
NHA explains the need for children’s activities such as coloring, playdough creations, cutting and writing for muscle exercises and dexterity.
Link Between Handwriting and Academic Performance
But it isn’t just the handwriting that is being affected by the increased touchscreen use. Teachers are reporting that youngsters are struggling to perform even the simplest of motor tasks such as putting together building blocks and tying shoe laces. Therapist Mellissa Prunty says that when it comes to the issue of handwriting in children, parents make too many assumptions as to what may be the cause for their inability to write properly by a certain age, and its common to jump to serious conclusions without taking the effect of using touchscreens into consideration.
The headmistress of Millfield Prep School, Shirley Shayler, warned that children who begin their educational career with absolutely no knowledge and experience in arts and crafts activities tend to fall behind in learning. Handwriting does have an evident link with academic performance and it is a skill that lasts for a lifetime.