Too Much Tech Delays Basic Child Development

Timothy Boyer Ph.D.'s picture
Proper pencil grip matters when young

Here's one simple test to find out if too much tech in the home is delaying your child's basic development skills.


Do you and your spouse ever argue about just how much time your child spends using a smart phone and/or tablet? According to a recent news article, smart phones and tablets are preventing many children from learning how to hold a pen or pencil properly, which could be delaying their most basic motor skills and ability to succeed in life.

A recent article in The Guardian cautions parents that pediatricians are finding that children are increasingly finding it hard to hold pens and pencils because of an excessive use of touchpad tech in the home that prevents finger muscle development and fine motor control.

"Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago," said Sally Payne, the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation NHS Trust. "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."

The Pencil Holding Test

To see how your child is doing with his or her grip, pay attention the next time they pick up a pen, pencil or crayon and observe how he or she holds their writing instrument. Bear in mind, however, that you have to consider the child's age as normal development typically progresses through 3 early-learning grasp styles before learning to hold a pen or pencil correctly.

1. The Fisted Grip style--a typical toddler style of holding a crayon and using shoulder movement to get a crayon across the paper (or wall).

2. The Palmar Grasp--here the toddler is a little steadier on his feet and with his or her muscle control as they naturally learn to hold a pencil with the shaft lying across the palm of the hand with their elbow held out to the side.

3. The 5-Finger Pencil Grasp--a normal grasp for a child under 5 in which he or she uses all 5 fingers to hold their writing instrument, often with the wrist off the table. Some finger movement may be used as well for finer control.

4. The (desired) Dynamic Tripod Grasp--by age 5 or 6, your child should be learning to forgo the earlier stage styles and now using only their thumb, index and middle finger working together in a tripod style grasp that allows small, coordinated movements.

Why Their Grip is So Important

Child development experts point out that there are multiple reasons why a child needs to eventually learn the proper grip for holding a pen or pencil.

A poor pencil grip can lead to:

--Unnecessary pain when writing.


--Fatigue and difficulty completing assignments.

--Poor legibility, which can lead to bias and lower grades.

--A slower handwriting speed, which makes it difficult to keep up with his or her classmates.

--Slower performance in exams and standardized tests.

--Potential embarrassment and difficulty in changing their grip style. If your child doesn't learn appropriate pencil grip between the ages of four and six, they'll find it much more difficult to correct the habit later.

--Poor learning, some studies show that children (and adults) learn better through the physical process of writing.

--Poor communication in the workplace or filling out applications and other forms still requires legible handwriting in many cases.

YouTube Instruction on Proper Pen and Pencil Grip

The Pinch & Flip Method:

Pencil Grip and Line Letters Practice

Other Ways to Help Develop Motor Control

To avoid over-parenting when teaching your child proper pen and pencil grip, breakup the monotony by helping their little hands increase their strength, flexibility, and control to help them develop better overall handwriting skills with games or activities involving:

--Crumpling paper into small tight balls
--Squirting a spray bottle or water gun
--Modeling with play dough
--Pincer grip activities
--Placing coins into a coin slot (this is not an excuse for going to Vegas however)

For more about the importance and benefits of developing motor skills in your child, here is an informative article titled "Training These 3 Motor Skills Will Have Children Doing Better in School."

Reference: The Guardian "Children struggle to hold pencils due to too much tech, doctors say"

Image Source: Pixabay