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Are children learning to hold a pen with smartphones?


Experts warn of increasing finger muscle weakness in children

It is becoming increasingly difficult for children to hold pens properly at school because they use too much technology, warn British experts. Excessive use of touchscreen smartphones and tablets prevents children's finger muscles from developing enough to hold a pen properly, says Sally Payne, director of children's therapists at the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust.

You and other experts warn that children are already no longer going to school with the same level of manual strength and skill as was the case ten years ago. "Children who come to school get a pen, but can no longer hold it because they do not have the basic movement skills," the expert told the English newspaper "The Guardian".

Missing basic requirements

"To be able to grip and move a pencil, you need strong control over the fine muscles in your fingers," says Payne. Children would need many opportunities to develop these skills. But the way of playing has changed and many of these options are now no longer available.

Strong competition to classic toys

"It's easier to give an iPad to a child than to encourage them to cut, glue, paint, or use building blocks," Payne said. For this reason, the basic skills children need to grasp and hold a pencil do not develop.

A British example

The British newspaper reports on six-year-old Patrick, who has had weekly sessions with a therapist for six months. This should help to develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pen in the right grip. Patrick's mother reproaches herself: "In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technical toys with which I virtually replaced the traditional toys," she reports to the newspaper. When he got to school, Patrick couldn't move the pencil with accuracy.

Increasing problems

Pediatric occupational therapist Mellissa Prunty also fears that more and more children will learn the basics of handwriting too late because they use the technique too much. "One problem is that the handwriting develops very individually in each child," says Prunty. She would like to initiate research on this topic. Without research, there is a risk that too many assumptions will be made about why a child cannot write at the expected age. If there is a confirmed technological reason, then it is necessary to intervene.

The world in which our children grow up has changed

"It is undeniable that technology has changed the world in which our children grow up," said Karin Bishop, deputy director of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists. Although there are many positive aspects for the use of technology, there is also increasing evidence of the negative effects. The lifestyle of many children is characterized by sedentary activities and increasing virtual social interaction.

Independent countermeasures

The specialist portal "Pediatricians on the Net" published a flyer to help parents find the right workload for their child. The experts propose the following measures:

  • Role model: Children often imitate their parents' behavior. Screen media should therefore be targeted and not used when eating, before sleeping or out of boredom.
  • No educational function: Do not use technical devices as a reward, punishment or reassurance.
  • Give priority to real life: Enable children to have real experiences with other people, listen to and speak to the child, allow and encourage the child's creativity, specify more exercise time than screen time in their free time.
  • Don't start too early: No screen media for under three year olds.
  • Accompany film experiences: Talk to the child about events in films, do not leave the remote control to the child independently, switch off the sound in advertising blocks.
  • Usage time: Establish clear rules for when a screen medium may be used.
  • enlightenment: A child should be informed about topics such as sex, data protection, social media, violence, pornography and gambling before using the Internet independently.
  • Restrict electronic monitoring: The child should also be enabled to be out of reach and on the go without a smartphone. Communication options without electronic devices should also be shown to the child.

(vb)

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