Tag Archives: kid

Children struggle to hold pens because of too much touchscreen exposure

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.

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?

Childbirth can make women’s cells age faster than smoking or obesity

We all know that pregnancy and childbirth change women’s minds and bodies. A new study has found that women who give birth can age very fast, genetically speaking. But how?

Via Pixabay/marvelmozhko

Researchers collected DNA data from 1,505 different women from the US, with ages ranging from twenty to forty-four and discovered that having children significantly altered genetic markers of aging — telomeres, to be exact.

Telomeres are repetitive DNA fragments found at each end of the chromosomes, which protects them from deterioration or from fusion with neighboring chromosomes. At birth, our telomeres are long, but with each cell replication, telomeres grow shorter. Thus, telomere length decreases from birth to death and is considered a marker of aging. Shorter telomeres are correlated with outcomes like cancer, heart disease, and cognitive decline. Another cause of telomere shortening is stress,

Epidemiologist Anna Pollack from George Mason University and her team analyzed data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) – one of the largest cross-sectional studies charting the wellness of people in the US.

Researchers analyzed data collected between the years 1999–2002, a period in which the survey included telomere measurements, and discovered something unsettling.

Once the team had adjusted for things like age, ethnicity, education, and smoking status, they discovered that women who had given birth to at least one child had telomeres that were 4.2 percent shorter on average than those of women who had not borne children.

Researchers explain that this percentage translates to around 11 years of rapid cellular aging. Compared to smoking (a cost of 4.6 years of cellular aging) and obesity (8.8 years), motherhood seems to be the champion of accelerated  DNA aging.

The study also revealed that the more children you have, the more your telomeres shrink.

“We found that women who had five or more children had even shorter telomeres compared to those who had none, and relatively shorter relative to those who had one, two, three or four, even,” Pollack told Newsweek.

The authors attributed telomere shortening to the stress accompanying having children, but they are not yet entirely sure of the cause. This study was purely observational, showing only a correlation between the two.

A 2016 study that analyzed telomere size in Mayan communities in Guatemala found that women in the community that had more surviving children had longer telomeres, suggesting that having children could actually protect women from cellular aging. Researchers believe that Mayan communities give more social support to their mothers than the US does — a great deal of stress being involved in the upbringing of the US kids.

“Anecdotally, just chatting with my friends who have children, we all do feel that having kids has aged us,” Pollack said to Newsweek. “But scientifically, this does fit with what we understand pretty well. We know that having kids is associated with a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes. And some large studies have linked telomere length to mortality risk and risks of other major diseases.”

Of course, having a child doesn’t mean you literally age 11 years. The authors write that their dataset lacked information on social factors, stress and fertility status, which may help explain these findings. With only two other previous studies regarding this matter being published, this paper‘s findings should be interpreted with caution, the authors warn.