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article imageIs the digital age affecting kids' writing skills?

By Tim Sandle     Mar 17, 2018 in Science
Is swiping affecting writing? A new concern has arisen about a reduction in motor skills of children, who are more used to using tablets and smartphones than they are in manipulating a pen or pencil.
The concern has been flagged by Sally Payne, who is the head pediatric occupational therapist at the Heart of England foundation National Health Service Trust in the U.K. Payne reports on evidence this the digital age is leading to a reduction in certain motor skills in young children.
Payne makes her points in an interview with The Guardian. She states: "Children coming into school are being given a pencil but, increasingly, they are not 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."
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Apple Inc.
Her concern is that: "Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills." She adds, in conversation with the BBC, that the ubiquity of electronic devices in toddlers' lives has led to an inability to grip and hold a pencil. The issues relates to muscle building an fine motor skills. Writing is not the only problem called out by Payne, for she notes a how children are these days less likely to engage in forms of play like building blocks, cutting and sticking, or pulling toys and ropes.
A boy completing homework assignment
John Bolland
In this context, a video clip recently went viral of a toddler holding a magazine and attempting to turn the pages by swiping, which is perhaps a reflection of the problem raised by the occupational therapist.
Concerns about child development in the digital age are similarly expressed by Dr Jane Medwell, who is part of the Write Your Future campaign - a group championing the importance of handwriting.
As children become older, there may be advantages from handwriting over typing. In this context, 2016 study, published in the journal Psychological Science ("A Comparative Study of Handwriting and Computer Typing in Note-taking by University Students"), found that students typing up notes from TED talks tended to take verbatim notes. In contrast, students writing in longhand were forced to be more selective. The study showed that while both sets of students remembered facts such as dates, the group that wrote notes were far better at remembering conceptual questions.
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