Kids Can't Hold Pencils Because They Spend So Much Damn Time on Screens, Doctors Warn


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Screen time is a major source of panic for most parents and researches. In recent years, scientists have made a concerted effort to study the effects that excessive technology use has on kids. Because of this, we know that too much screen time can cause behavioral issues, speech delays, and even anxiety in kids. Now, a group of experts are saying kids' favorite devices are affecting an even more surprising yet crucial part of their development -- their ability to hold pens and pencils.

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Pediatric occupational therapist Sally Payne of the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust told the Guardian that young children's excessive use of cell phones and tablets is actually preventing their finger muscles from properly developing. According to Payne, children need "strong control of the fine muscles in [their] fingers" in order to properly grip pencils, but because most of modern kids' downtime is spent playing on devices, these fine muscles don't have a lot of opportunities to develop. "Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago," she said.

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The Guardian spoke with a mom named Laura, who said that her 6-year-old son, Patrick, has been seeing an occupational therapist for six months following the discovery that he cannot properly grip pens and pencils. "In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys," she said. "When he got to school, they contacted me with their concerns; he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks. He just couldn't hold it in any other way and so couldn't learn to write because he couldn't move the pencil with any accuracy."

Fortunately, Patrick's therapy sessions are helping him immensely. While Patrick is only one specific case, pediatric occupational therapist Melissa Prunty also told the Guardian that the overuse of technology and its effects on finger muscle development in children is also causing huge issues in kids' handwriting, and it's only getting worse as schools become more reliant on tablets as teaching tools.


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Technology is only going to become more common in our kids' everyday lives. With companies like Facebook developing social media platforms for kids, devices becoming more child-friendly, and so much kid-centered media out there, it's impossible to escape it all. For a parent, it's only natural to be concerned about the ways all this tech will affect your kid's life. And when you look at the statistics, it's troubling to see the many dangers it can pose. Developmental delays, especially ones concerning kids' ability to write, are no joking matter, but the good news is that they can definitely be combatted. 

While it's easy to just say "give your kids the tablet less," that's not so easy in execution. Instead of taking away tech altogether -- and completely upending the lives of you and your kids -- try downloading apps that allow them to draw, sketch, and write; this will help with their dexterity and strengthen their finger muscles. If you want to go the more traditional route, Sally Payne tells the Guardian that things like building with blocks, using scissors, pulling toys, and playing with ropes are all formerly common childhood activities that have been known to aid in muscle development in the fingers and can still be utilized today.

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Ultimately, we don't need to take the tech away completely, but we should strive to balance screen time with real-world activities like crafts, games, and outdoor play. Technology is undoubtedly changing the ways we raise our kids, and that isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something we must take into account every time we hand over a tablet. 

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