Gen Z* maybe technology whiz kids – but children raised on iPads find it hard to hold a pencil, doctors have warned.
Excessive use of touchscreen phones and tablets is stifling the development of children’s finger muscles, making it hard to hold a pen or pencil correctly.
Senior paediatricians said swapping traditional toys for tablets may hinder children during their early years.
‘It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks,’ said Sally Payne, of the Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust. ‘They’re not developing the skills they need to grip and hold a pencil.’ Mrs Payne said children starting school nowadays do not have ‘the hand strength and dexterity they had ten years ago’. But Barbie Clarke, a child psychotherapist and founder of the Family Kids and Youth research agency, said: ‘We go into a lot of schools and have never gone into one which has embraced teaching through technology which isn’t using pens alongside the tablets and iPads.’
One mother, Laura, whose six-year-old son Patrick is having therapy to increase the strength in his index finger, told the Guardian: ‘In retrospect, I gave Patrick technology to play with to the virtual exclusion of the more traditional toys. When he got to school he was gripping his pencil like cavemen held sticks.’
*According to Forbes (2015), the generation after Millennials, Generation Z, which they defined as people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s.