An excessive use of touchscreen technology, including tablets and phones, is causing children difficulty in holding a pencil properly.

Senior paediatric doctors have warned that the increasing level of use of touchscreen devices is affecting the muscle strength and dexterity in children’s fingers.

Sally Payne, the head paediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust told the Guardian that: “Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago.

“Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not being able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills.

“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.”

We are all well aware that the shift in play techniques are very different for children nowadays, with most three year olds able to access an iPad and find their favourite game or Netflix programme easier than most adults. It is becoming startling clear that, while technology can be an easy option for parents to have five minutes to do something in the house, the time children spend on these devices must be limited and monitored.

In this day and age tablets and smart phones naturally have their place in all our lives and they can open up access to educational, fun and engaging games, however this can never be at the exclusion of traditional toys and play opportunities that encourage imaginative play, hand and finger dexterity, problem solving and much more.

For those children who are struggling with pencil grip and handwriting, occupational therapists can intervene and support them through various methods and strengthening exercises. The next issue of The OT Magazine explores the work by occupational therapists in this field.

To read the Guardian article click here