Too much tech: Today's kids struggle to hold pencils, study says

Kids are having trouble holding a pencil properly because of too much exposure to technology, a new study suggests.

The study, conducted by the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, found an overuse of touchscreen phones and tablets is preventing children’s finger muscles from developing so they can hold a pencil correctly.

“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 at the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, as quoted by The Guardian newspaper. 

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Payne added that technology is preventing kids from developing the skills to grip and move a pencil they get with traditional play.

“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. "Because of this, they’re not developing the underlying foundation skills they need to grip and hold a pencil.”

The Guardian reported on the case of a 6-year-old boy, Patrick, who received special occupational therapy to help him strengthen his index finger so he could hold a pencil with the correct grip.

His mother, Laura, said, “In retrospect, I see that I gave Patrick technology to play with, to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys. 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.”

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The mother is pleased the school intervened and that her son is improving.

“The therapy sessions are helping a lot and I’m really strict now at home with his access to technology,” she said. “I think the school caught the problem early enough for no lasting damage to have been done.”