The Impact of Electronic Devices on Handwriting

Technology can be a great thing. There are various options available for both adults and children; some for work, some for play, and some for entertainment. By design, technology is engaging and leaves you wanting more. Children and adults alike engage in phone and tablet use for various reasons, but is there actually a negative impact to spending too much time engaging on electronic devices?

Despite there being a variety of positives to technology, there are also various negatives too, one, in particular, is negative effects on writing. Academic writing quality, in general, has been decreased because of the application of short forms in writing. And, this has substantially been linked with the use of short text messaging applications. Childrens' reliance on electronics often has negative effects on handwriting too.

As children become school-aged, they're expected to have certain skills in place for holding and using a pencil. They're expected to have a whole range of other functional skills too. While the task of handwriting might appear simple, there is a whole range of foundational skills that are required to successfully complete this task. For instance:

  • Being able to sit at a desk and write requires children to use core strength for maintaining their position in the chair.
  • Wrist mobility is required for maneuvering the pencil.
  • Shoulder stability is required to stabilize their arm.
  • Finger dexterity for moving their pencil accurately.

Children also require visual skills to attend to the board and/or teacher.

They have to see what they're supposed to be doing and then they have to bring their eyes to their papers to complete the specified task. The fear and consequence of engaging on electronic devices so young is these foundational skills aren't being developed before kids attend school.

One study the journal Physical & Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics published investigated children who were five years old who had no developmental delays. Forty of the children used touchscreen tablets for more than 60 minutes each week for a minimum of a month. The kids were provided with a 24-week fine motor activity home program that also had them use tablets. Another 40 kids (the same age) didn't have the same amount of tablet use as the first set of children did, and they were given a 24-week program that consisted of manual play activities.

Once the program was over, the researchers found using a touchscreen tablet for a lengthy period of time may be disadvantageous to preschool kids' fine motor development

The first step is limiting screen time. You can help bridge the gap between outdoor play and tablet games by playing your children's favorite tablet game, but in “real life.” As children become more comfortable with gross motor play, they'll want to engage more in these types of activities. You can talk with your child's pediatric occupational therapist at your child's next pediatric occupational therapy session for more ideas.

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