It turns out that some kids cannot hold pencils—and doctors are worried.

Studies have shown that the overuse of mobile devices can result in children struggling to learn how to speak. It can also impact physical activity by encouraging a more sedentary lifestyle. But now there is a concern that some children in the digital generation can’t even hold a pen or pencil anymore, according to a news report last month.

“Children are not coming into school with the hand strength and dexterity they had 10 years ago,” pediatric occupational therapist Sally Payne told The Guardian. “Children coming into school are being given a pencil but are increasingly not being able to hold it because they don’t have the fundamental movement skills.”

“It’s easier to give a child an iPad than encouraging them to do muscle-building play such as building blocks,” Payne added. “Children need lots of opportunity to develop those skills.”

I realize I am probably preaching to the choir when I say there is an overuse of mobile devices and screen time in our society.

Last month, we went out to a nice Hibachi dinner as a family to celebrate my birthday. The kids were enthralled with the antics of the chef and we had such a fun evening. Nearly the whole time, a group of three people who were also sitting at our table—one adult and two teenagers—were on their cell phones.

My oldest daughter was incredulous. Later, she said to me, “They never even talked with each other all night!”

I personally couldn’t imagine paying money for a nice dinner out with people I love, and not savoring each moment with eye contact, enjoying the ambiance, and focusing on the food and the people. Those folks at our table were missing out!

Of course, this behavior seems like it’s becoming typical. Many kids walk down our street with their eyes glued to their phones. Kids in waiting rooms, restaurants, and vehicles all over the city are moving their thumbs on their screens like automatons.

Lest this post come across as harsh and judgmental, I honestly do realize that kids can easily get addicted to these things if there is an expectation that these things are always available to them. And we parents are very, very tired. So it’s natural to give in! It takes so much willpower and effort to place healthy boundaries on screen time.

We recently dealt with the TV addiction of my 5-year-old son.

He felt entitled to watch a show three days a week when he knew his sisters were busy in the afternoon. I was getting lazier and lazier about correcting this expectation. It’s not wrong for a kid to watch a show when his mom is tired and other kids are busy! But I didn’t like that he felt entitled to it and was having bad attitudes.

Soon I was dealing with a green-eyed monster whenever I told him no. Because of his attitudes of disrespect whenever I said “No, you cannot watch TV,” we decided he needed a month-long fast.

The first week of detox was miserable—for him, and also for me. By the start of the second week, however, I was amazed at how much easier it was. At that point, my son realized I wasn’t going to give in and he stopped complaining. He had the date memorized that I would let him watch TV again, and he sometimes reminded me of that date, but there were no more bad attitudes. He started entertaining himself a lot more, by playing with toys and creating his own “toys” out of random objects. Imagine!

Thankfully, this little fast helped to re-set some important boundaries in our house.

I’m pretty sure that most of you have never given your baby or toddler unlimited access to an iPad. In fact, if you’re homeschooling your children, my guess is that they all can hold a pencil and do other dexterous things that previous generations have taken for granted.

You’ve got this! Be intentional, but don’t be too hard on yourself. When the days are bad, remind yourself: “At least my kids can hold a pencil.” Because it’s not as common as it used to be.


Photo Credit: Photo courtesy of iStock.