The iPad Syndrome: Are Our Children's Hands Weakening?

The iPad Syndrome: Are Our Children's Hands Weakening?

Computers and touch screen mobile devices are essential parts of modern life. From when we wake to the moment we sleep, too much of our time is spent plugging our faces into the screens of our mobile devices. But as the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and mobile-based, we’re only going to spend more time staring at our phones and computers.

For most doctors, that’s a problem - spending too much time on our devices and computers creates potential mental and physical health risks. Some have found that overuse of mobile phones and computers can cause depression and addiction, while others find that it promotes bad posture that strains the joints in the body. And that’s true to a certain extent - we’re often slouched and staring down at our phones when posting an Instagram photo for the sole purpose of gaining likes and comments.

Related: SCMP: Touchscreen-addicted children’s hands are becoming too weak to hold pencils, doctors warn

But a group of paediatricians in Britain found that the excessive use of these technologies affects us in more troubling ways than just backaches and inflatable egos. It could also hinder the development and longevity of our motor skills and twitch muscles - both of which are essential to tasks that require high levels of dexterity, such as writing, typing and playing musical instruments. 

According to their research, some kids in the UK are already finding it difficult to hold pens and pencils as a result of excessive use of touch screen tablets and phones. The nature of these devices causes kids to tap at things, rather than move physical objects with their hands.

Dr. Rajesh Singh

Listen to the podcast here:

On our Health and Living program, host Meera Sivasothy asked our monthly guest and consultant orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Rajesh Singh, whether it was something we should be worried about. He explains in the podcast why he thinks the story is sensationalized.

Dr. Rajesh attributes the “the iPad syndrome” to the lack of effective nurturing. Toys play a significant role in a child’s life - the simple act of meddling with lego bricks and buzz wires enables kids to explore their senses and build strength for all ten fingers and both of their hands. Neglecting this in favour of touch screens (where not more than two fingers are used) won’t allow for their motor skills to develop evenly and effectively.

In his eyes, the solution is simple: balance. The amount of time spent on iPads should be consistent with the amount of time they spend pulling blades of grass out of the garden or spent moulding Play-Doh. That way, they could theoretically have lightning-quick thumbs for texting and eight other extremely dexterous fingers for playing Mozart with their eyes closed.

Dr. Rajesh Singh appears on the first week of every month, on BFM's Health and Living Segment to discuss curious topics such as this.  You can listen to more of him by clicking here.