If you are not a parent, this may never have crossed your mind — I certainly never thought of it until now. But if you do have a child, it might be best to give your kid some real toys to play with and limit their touchscreen activity if you want them to be able to hold a pen.

Via Pixabay/picjumbo_com

Pediatricians warn that due to the rise of touchscreen technology, today’s children find it very difficult to hold pens. In order to learn how to write, children‘s finger muscles have to be exercised, and the best way of doing so is by allowing them to play with building blocks, coloring books, or just regular, non-virtual toys.

Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England Foundation NHS Trust, told The Guardian:

“Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago,”  she said. “Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not be 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.”

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

According to the paper Effect of Pencil Grasp on the Speed and Legibility of Handwriting in Children, there are four mature ways of correctly holding a pen.

Four functional ‘mature’ pencil grasp types (Schwellnus et al., AJOT, 2012).

The authors of the 2012 study state that all four ways are correct, meaning they do not affect handwriting speed or legibility. So, even if a kid does not use the dynamic tripod grasp, that will not affect his or her writing skills. But it seems that kids nowadays can’t really use any of these grasps. Motor dysgraphia — trouble writing due to lack of fine motor skills — has become a  real concern for parents.

Karin Bishop, an assistant director at the Royal College of Occupational Therapists, also admitted concerns: “It is undeniable that technology has changed the world where our children are growing up,” she said to The Guardian. “Whilst there are many positive aspects to the use of technology, there is growing evidence on the impact of more sedentary lifestyles and increasing virtual social interaction, as children spend more time indoors online and less time physically participating in active occupations.”

Until now, there is no conclusive study that proves handwriting to be useful for children‘s developing brains. Yes, if a technological apocalypse were to occur, knowing how to write with your hands might be extremely helpful. However, in our current society, I see no particular problem in this — however, this is coming from someone who always hated handwriting and thought it was old-fashioned, overrated and not particularly useful. We now live in a world where technology allows us instant access to information, where we needn’t write down every word the professor says, as there are tons of books available to read on any subject whatsoever.

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Maybe this is just the way learning systems will evolve, away from the teacher dictating to students what to write down and toward actually discussing the lesson freely and reading about the subject outside the classroom. Again, this is just my opinion. What do you think? Is handwriting so important that it must prevail, or will it become obsolete, just like typing machines and printing presses?

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