Parents who load their tablets and smartphones up with fun educational apps for their kids to play with may actually be doing them more harm than good. According to The Guardian, spending too much time tapping and swiping away at touchscreens is leaving the muscles in many children's hands too weak to hold a pencil.
In the article, Sally Payne, a pediatric occupational therapist, explains that the nature of play has changed over the past decade. Instead of giving kids things to play with that build up their hand muscles, such as building blocks, or toys that need to be pushed or pulled along, parents have been handing them tablets and smartphones. Because of this, by the time they're old enough to go to school, many children lack the hand strength and fine motor control required to correctly hold a pencil and write. In order to correct the problem, some parents are going so far as to send their kids to pediatric occupational therapists, like Payne:
Six-year-old Patrick has been having weekly sessions with an occupational therapist for six months to help him develop the necessary strength in his index finger to hold a pencil in the correct, tripod grip.
His mother, Laura, blames herself: "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.
"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."
So, the next time you're looking to entertain your child, maybe reach for a box full of art projects instead of an iPad–or, at the very least, pony up the cash for an Apple Pencil.